CLICK BAIT –Arctic Temperatures Crash Below Normal–

The DMI graph tells it all.

DMI5 0319 meanT_2018

The only reason I’m pounding a drum about temperatures being slightly below normal at the Pole is because the media made such a hoopla about the spike that preceded it. Call my post anti-hoopla, if you will.

Not that any weather can be anything other than proof of Global Warming, in the eyes of some. For example, a few weeks ago the loopy jet-stream brought warm weather to the east coast of the USA. That was proof of Global Warming. However now it is bitterly cold, but that too is proof of Global Warming. If you choose to enter that mindset, here are examples. Warm spell is proof of Global Warming? See here:

Blizzard a few days later is proof of Global Warming? See here:

It is really an amazing sort of delusion, wherein there is no way to refute the hypothesis, even if it is incorrect. I am reduced to rolling my eyes.

One thing I refuse to do is to allow these poor, misguided zealots to drop the term “Global Warming.” It is their roots, and they need to stay grounded. I know they dearly want to forget their past predictions of doom and gloom and to “move on .com” to new predictions of doom and gloom, and therefore want to move to the safer topic of “Climate Change” (for the climate always changes), but they promised us a warmer world, and by gum I am not going to let them skip out on their promise. Also I don’t want them to avoid the absurdity they face, and have earned, when the weather is bitterly cold. It is a custard pie plashed into their face, and they themselves deliver it.

I have to admit they display adroit dexterity of logic, when explaining how a howling blizzard is due to Global Warming. I appreciate that sort of balderdash, for such balderdash is at the root of creative writing. Of course, mature writers know they have entered the world of fiction, and have left the landscape of science. But, before they were mature, some writers were forced to attend Algebra classes they loathed, and, when asked to explain why their Algebra homework was undone, wove such amazing webs of balderdash that the classroom hushed, and the teacher couldn’t help but smile. In the process they displayed adroit dexterity of logic. For this reason I think many Climate Scientists are actually creative writers who missed their calling.

But they do not fool me one bit. After all, I am myself a creative writer, and know all too clearly the difference between science and fiction, for in my time I too have offered bill collectors my poems, with a predictable result.

It doesn’t matter how fantastic your flights of imagination may be, (that you call “explanations”), you can’t eat them when your belly growls (and anyway, the unimpressed bill collector calls them “excuses”). A day must come when reality knocks at the door like the Grim Reaper. And, for Alarmists who are seeking to sell Global Warming, that is what cold temperatures are: The Grim Reaper (or bill collector) knocking at their door.

And that is why I am so cruel as to post the above graph. I want to be the cold slap of reality on a feverish face, and to wake people up.

I need to warn those young dreamers (who are desperately attempting to make their Global Warming creativity look like science) that they need to be careful.  They need to take care not to slip into the landscape of liars. Not that the temptations may not be more seductive than those faced by a man with an ugly wife and a beautiful secretary. But, as a creative writer, I can guarantee nothing dries up the founts of creativity faster than cheating in terms of Truth. For example, if a great creative writer succumbs to the big paycheck of working for an advertising agency,  he notices an almost immediate increase in what is called “writer’s block”, and in some cases ceases to be able to write at all.

How might such lies occur in the world of something innocuous as polar temperatures? Well, for an example, begin by looking at the color-codes in the scale of temperatures in the map below, from the recent February spike in arctic temperatures.

Sneaky TemperatureAnomaly02212018

Look at the color of -4°C. It is a blue so pale it is nearly indistinguishable from white. But then look at +4°C. It is a vivid ochre .  This visually gives more “weight” to four degrees of warming than four degrees of cooling. It is a sort of lie. And then also note how the planet is tilted, so Siberia is away from the viewer. That too makes Siberia seem smaller and gives it less “weight”, and is a visual lie. Third, the map does not reflect actual temperatures, but rather “anomalies”, which can make temperatures far below zero appear cherry red, and thus generate an impression of warmth where it is cold.

Please compare the “impression” given by the above map with the “impression” given by the map below, (from a few days later), which reflects not “anomalies”, but actual temperatures.

Sneaky 2 comment-4-gfs_t2m_nhem_2

It is difficult to recognize the maps as being from the same planet, let alone as being from roughly the same time. Considering the second map reflects actual temperatures, it reflects Truth as it actually is, while the first “anomaly”map reflects something that isn’t, a “departure”, and slips from reality towards a sort of slight-of-hand.

I appreciate this sort of cleverness, as a creative writer, but also recognize the danger. It is one thing to display adroit dexterity of logic when telling baldfaced lies to an Algebra teacher who is demanding undone homework, but quite another when you enter the adult world where a man’s word (and a woman’s word) is their honor.

What is the danger? The danger is that, if you don’t stand for Truth, a time may come when you look around for who will stand for you, and all around you will be false. Even worse, when you look within for the founts of creativity and recreation, the springs will be dried up, and all will be a desert. Indeed, while a warming world would be of benefit to many, the political dishonesty involved in Global Warming seems more likely to result in a global desertification.


ARCTIC SEA-ICE -Rise and Fall Of Spike and Hype and Poppycock–UPDATED

I was going to headline this post “Polar Temperatures Plunge”, but that would too obviously be “click-bait”. Also, despite “the plunge”, temperatures are still above normal at the Pole, and therefore such hype would be misleading.

Alarmists resort to such hype all the time, so I suppose I could say, “they started it”, like schoolboys after a brawl. And some, for example Tony Heller at the Real Climate Science Site, can be forgiven if at times they simply make factual statements that perhaps are incomplete, and leave it up to Alarmists to complete the picture.

As an example (of my own invention), in the graph below the “spike” ends with a plunge back towards normal. One might measure that plunge (I haven’t), and might discover it was the biggest fall in temperatures between February 26 and February 28 on record. Then one could call it an “unprecedented” fall in temperatures in the headline, and only mention in paragraph twenty-two (if at all) that there have been greater plunges on other dates, and that temperatures are still above normal, and also that there may have been greater plunges back before records were started in 1958. In this manner one would tell no lies, but serve the ball back into the Alarmist’s  court, and force them to run around digging all up the data that would counter the impression created by your headline. Alarmists certainly deserve such treatment, because they have been forcing Skeptics to play this sort of ball since 1986.

DMI5 0303 meanT_2018

Today I am not in the mood to play ball with Alarmists, for the weather phenomenon we have just witnessed is more interesting than they are.  I’m sorry if this hurts their feelings. I know how they love attention. I will mention some of their hype in passing, but largely focus on the pattern, and all the things it suggests to my over-active imagination.

For those in a hurry, the pattern first developed a cross-polar-flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and then went through an amazing flip that turned it right around to a cross-polar-flow from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Big deal. You are dismissed.

For those in less of a hurry, here are the details:

When I last posted the play-by-play maps, we wound up with a fascinating double-inflow to the Pole.


Those who follow my posts know I suffer from an over-active imagination. Many scientists do not suffer from this problem. They have no imagination at all.

I freely recognize my abundance of imagination may see things that are not actual fact. For example, once when I was far at sea, very hungry,  and a long, long way from a good meal, I looked up at afternoon cumulus tainted a Rembrandt yellow-orange, and I’ll be danged if the clouds didn’t look like something. They didn’t look like a lamb or a fluffy puppy, or anything simple like that, but rather like an elaborate Rembrandt painting of a Christmas dinner, complete with a plump mother bringing in the roast goose. Doubt me if you will, but I could even smell the food. My mouth watered. I shrugged it off as a hallucination; for sailors suffer a sort of partial sensory-deprivation (hand in hand with a sensory-over-stimulation),  and see differently than lubbers do, and they have to be on guard lest “sirens” tempt them to jump overboard. In any case, even if I had taken a picture of those clouds you would be unlikely to see what I saw. (Nor would I today, sad to say.) The incredible, beautiful scene was, as they say, a “figment”. It was a figment of my imagination.

Many scientists avoid figments like the plague. Poor fellows. They do not know what they are missing. The reason I turned away from science to art was that I far prefer figments to drab and dreary facts. In fact the divorce between art and science would be complete and terminal, were it not for a few scientists who astounded me by having imaginations, and liking figments. It amazed me that a scientist actually could have a mind.

This happened at an early age, in grade school, during a class I don’t think they teach any more, called “Geography”. A lot of the class was very boring, involving endless factoids regarding what city was capital of what nation, (many of the nations don’t even exist any more, so my memorization was somewhat in vain). However Geography also involved some basic Geology, which caught my imagination. I liked the sea, and mountains, and volcanoes. (Especially volcanoes). Therefore, during the more boring part of the class, my eyes would wander to the maps on the wall. I (along with roughly 200,000 other bored schoolboys) noticed South America was a puzzle piece that fit nicely against Africa. Of course, doing that fitting was a “figment”, but, boys being boys, it happened a lot. And, if you do it a lot, some of the fits of puzzle pieces are extraordinary. For example, the two coasts of the Red Sea fit together like hands to a glove. Still, the idea of land moving, and spreading that far apart, seemed preposterous. Yet, boys being boys, imagination went beyond the books.

Teachers, at that time, mostly taught by the book. If the book said up was down, (or Global Warming was a fact), they would go by the book. And the book, at that time, had an interesting explanation for the erection of mountain ranges. (I remember it because I got an “A” on that test.)

Mountains were erected, “scientists stated”, because the planet was cooling. Once the entire planet was molten lava, “scientists stated”, but it had gradually cooled. As it cooled the surface skimmed over with a crust of cooled lava. Then, as the planet continued to cool, the crust not only got thicker, but it obeyed a scientific law. As things cool they get smaller. (Every engineer knows this,  and allows for expansion due to heating and for contraction due to cooling). However the skin of crust on the surface of the earth did not allow for contraction, and didn’t put in the “spacers” good engineers put in concrete sidewalks and highways. Therefore, as the earth shrank, the crust crumpled “like the skin of a shriveled apple,” and mountains arose.

I loved this idea as a boy. The logic seemed majestic to me. But there was a small problem. Back in those days children still knew what a shriveled apple looked like, (because we didn’t import apples from the southern hemisphere, and had to depend on the local supply), and when, towards spring, I took a shriveled apple from my brown, paper bag, (lunch boxes were for snobs), I noted the wrinkles were evenly distributed.  On the skin of earth, (I noted when daydreaming at maps in Geography class), mountains were not so evenly distributed. I was especially struck by how mountains were a spine only to the west, in South America.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t figure out the theory of Continental Drift by myself, in Grade school. However my over-active imagination was seeing things that didn’t add up. I was in second grade, and Eisenhower was still president, before scientists began the research that, in only a few years, blew the minds of geologists.

What a great time to be a geologist! They were allowed to have imagination.

In only six years I was entering eighth grade, feeling the first dangerous effects of adolescent hormones,  and Johnson was president and was confident he could make poverty a thing of the past. I knew all about the new discoveries concerning Continental Drift, for there were Scientific American articles about the subject,  and an enthusiastic relative kept me informed. And it was just then I came face to face with an elderly science teacher who was still teaching by the book.

Oh what a glory it was, (considering I was slow to grow and was the most stunted boy in my class), to stand up to this know-it-all teacher and tell her she was wrong. And I have to admit she did respond in a wonderful way. When I slapped the evidence, (Scientific American articles, because it was worth reading back then,)  down in front of her, she did not shame me by calling me a “skeptic”. She actually read what I showed her, and actually changed her mind. How I wish Alarmists of today had the elasticity-of-mind which that old lady, close to retirement, displayed. (How many Alarmists actually read Skeptic writings?)

But I blame that glorious moment  of my youth for causing me to drift towards being overly imaginative. It is not pragmatic to put too much weight on our imaginations. Even sailors know this, and refrain from jumping into the sea though alluring “sirens” beckon. But I thought “figments” had power, when I mastered my eighth grade teacher, at a height of four foot eleven. It gave me the “figment” (also called the “false impression”) that when I grew to be six feet tall I could master bankers, and they would give me good money to write the “figments” called bad poetry. I was wrong.

So here it is, fifty years later. I am a little wiser. For example, I know President Johnson didn’t eradicate poverty, (first hand), and also think I may understand a little about what Jesus meant when he stated “Blessèd are the poor”. (IE: If you eradicate poverty you eradicate blessings; [take that, Karl Marx]). The most beautiful music and poetry and wisdom springs from suffering. (IE: “You gotta pay the dues if you want to sing the blues”). However this wisdom I’ve gleaned doesn’t matter a hill of beans in the unimaginative landscape of dullard scientists.

I actually like science, for it is a study of Truth, and I apologize to all good scientists for stating scientists lack imagination, but they do. They remind me of myself when I have to do my taxes (which I’m now doing). When doing taxes you have to stop living life in order to sift through receipts, because the nosy government insists on knowing, and gives the IRS great power. And life grinds to a halt. And you can’t help but ask yourself, “Wouldn’t life be easier without receipts? Wouldn’t we get more done without all this paperwork?” In like manner, in terms of imagination, certain scientists are like the IRS. They care more for receipts than for life, in that they care more for data than for discovery.

Me? I am a mad poet, and therefore care more for discovery than data. After all, how are we to know Truth that is not known, if we rely on what is already known, and do not bother discover?

In the world of orthodox science discovery is a laborious process, involving six thousand facts for a single utterance. It’s a long run for a slide so short it amounts to a jolt to a halt. To poets Truth is a heck of a lot easier. Poets just describe what they see. In the world of science this is called “observation”. But poets take it a step farther. How can I explain?

Let me put it this way:  In a courtroom a witness is constrained. He can only state what he saw. If he states what he thought, a lawyer will holler, “Objection!” This is in one way being a stickler for the Truth, but it can approach absurdity. For example, if you saw a man jump from the seventh story window, ran downstairs, and saw him dead on the pavement, you’d conclude the man jumped to his death, but the lawyer would object, “But did you see the man hit the pavement?” What a waste of time! Do scientists really insist on wasting time in this manner?

Poets are lucky, for they can tell lawyers to go f— themselves. Scientists can’t, for science is governed by tedious, worldly laws poets don’t need to care a fig about. Who needs figs when you have figments?

However there is a tangent point between the world of poets and the world of science. It exists because both study Truth.

Both study Beauty. A poet who agonized between science (becoming a surgeon) and becoming unscientific (becoming a poet) was John Keats, and one of his most famous poems states, “Beauty is Truth.”

Unfortunately science has yet to come up with a thermometer or barometer that can measure beauty. Karl Marx be damned; beauty is beyond the measure of money and all economists.

Therefore, when I tell you what  I have observed about arctic sea-ice, you need to know the observations spring from beyond the measure of bankers and money. It is beyond the measure of data from scientists and thermometers. It is just stuff that is simply, as we say in New Hampshire, “wicked beautiful”. (By the way, the misuse of the word “wicked” originated in New Hampshire. Boston copied us.)

But, to be beautiful, beauty must stand out against that which is ugly (or at least plain). Beauty calls the plain inferior. It seems hurtful to call another’s ideas plain, (or at least inadequate), but some ideas failed to explain what was occurring at the Pole.

I’ve explained in past posts how elegant ideas such as the interaction between the Ferrel and Polar Cell, and the positive and negative AO, failed to describe what Truth showed us was occurring at the Pole. It was a bit like saying mountains arose because the earth shrank like a withered apple. It was an idea that didn’t work, and begged for a new idea. A figment was required.

Because the elegant ideas of hard-working scientists were failing to see what my over-active imagination was seeing, I decided to share what I see in the clouds. Lord knows, I lack data. I’m not funded, and do this for the joy of it.

That is why I issue a “Poppycock and Balderdash Warning”. I’m a witness defying the lawyers by going a little bit farther than actual observations, and suggesting a thing or two (which is what makes poetry different from science).

Those of you who have put up with me for five years, with me tediously prattling while looking at DMI maps of isobars and isotherms in the Arctic, have seen me slowly start to suggest that some ideas which are missed by conventional concepts may be involved. Likely my ideas are comical and unscientific errors, but they are errors based upon fact, and as my ideas are ridiculed and debunked the process will force conventional concepts to be adjusted.

Here are my past ideas in a nutshell:

Ralpheena FullSizeRender

The above is not a highfalutin theory submitted to a scientific journal for peer review, but rather figments ( more formally called “a preliminary sketch of ideas from a witness’s notebook of observations”). While I respect the elegant and traditional ideas of positive and negative AO and Ferrel and Polar Cells,   the recent past has been an exception to their rule, and has in fact made a shambles of their rule. Therefore I’m trying to come up with something that explains the exception to their rule. I don’t mean disrespect, but all rules have exceptions.

The circles represent views down at the North Pole. The upper section holds ideas I had about the anomalous area of polar low pressure that kept reappearing last year, which I dubbed “Ralph.”  I concocted an idea the north Pole was like a chimney, and the “draft” had increased through some unknown process, (though I’ll venture some ideas about what controls the “damper” later). I felt the process was aided by the extra heat made available by the “super” El Nino of 2015. As that heat faded I felt the “draft” would lessen, Ralph would vanish, and instead we’d return to the traditional “zonal” flow sketched at the lower left. To my delight I was utterly wrong, and something new and interesting developed. Rather than a single “feeder-band” feeding into a counterclockwise swirl, there were two “feeder-bands” feeding into a clockwise swirl. It was draining off the earth’s heat through the “chimney”, but in an opposite way, like a Ying to Ralph’s Yang. I decided it needed a name, so I dubbed it Ralpheena, and sketched it out to the lower left.

None of this seemed to give me any ability to predict. I was mostly looking backwards and puzzling over what I saw. My lone prediction, (of a “zonal” pattern), had gone down in flames, and I didn’t feel inclined to embarrass myself further. (I knew my forecast was in trouble way back in October, when D’Aleo and Bastardi predicted a negative NAO at the end of the winter, which tends to be very loopy and not zonal.) Instead I decided to simply watch.

For the moment I’ll just post the maps. One thing I  found fascinating is how the high pressure swung around to be exactly where Bastardi and D’Aleo said it would be. Those fellows amaze me.

I’ll add comments later. But duty calls.


We begin back on the 18th of February. The isotherms in the DMI temperature maps clearly showed the two mild feeds of “Ralpheena”, one from the Pacific and one from the Atlantic. This persisted into the 21st, at which point low pressure on the Pacific side interfered with the Pacific inflow.

The inflows always create low pressure, because the milder air has to rise in the colder environment it enters. But what goes up must come down, and therefore the inflow will also pump nearby high pressure (though I never am sure where). In the case of “Ralpheena” the high pressure seemed to be atop the Pole.

The Atlantic feed included a big gale that crashed into the southeast coast of Greenland on the 20th. Very cold temperatures in the Canadian Archipelago made headlines up there, but nowhere else (except the “Ice Age Now” site). Milder than normal temperatures in Svalbard did make the mainstream news.

The high pressure started to get nudged off the Pole towards Eurasia by the 21st. The low pressure created by the Pacific feed directed the inflow of Pacific air away from the Pole even as the Atlantic feed was pulled closer to the Pole. The mechanics seemed to involve the Atlantic feed clashing with cold air over the Archipelago, and generating low pressure on the Canadian side, contributing to the nudging of the high pressure towards Europe. The weak low northwest of Greenland could be called a weak “Ralph”.  Another gale approached Greenland from the southeast.

By the 23rd the high pressure towards Eurasia was pumped up, and the contrast between it and the Ralph-like low pressure towards Greenland were generating a surge of Atlantic air up over the Pole.  The south side of the high was creating east winds over Europe, and a major outbreak of Siberian air was moving from east to west towards and into Europe. Yet another major gale approached southeast Greenland, riding the southerly surge from the Atlantic.

By the 24th the gale hitting Greenland was a monster, with pressures down near 940 mb. Tremendous amounts of snow were increasing Greenland’s icecap. This generates no headlines. The air transited Greenland, releasing much latent heat as it snowed itself out, and descended to the north from over 10,000 feet as a Chinook (or Foehn) wind. Temperatures on the north coast were above freezing for a day, and the strong winds pushed the ice off the coast and created a polynya of open water. This did generate headlines, though the polynya was swiftly freezing over. (Note the temperature maps at no point are above freezing at the Pole).

At this point the hoopla about the “warm” Pole reached a cresendo, I think to counter the news of “The Beast From The East”. (A Dutch commenter noted he could find no Headlines in Dutch newspapers about their canals freezing and people skating, but instead gathered the news from a Turkish newspaper.)

The Hoopla spoke of temperatures thirty degrees above normal at the Pole, open water by  Greenland’s coast, a brief time of above-freezing temperatures on Greenland’s north coast, and created the impression that melting was extreme and ongoing. There still was not yet much mention in the media of temperatures thirty degrees below normal roaring from Siberia into southeast Europe, as what came to be known as “The Beast From The East” gathered steam and became blatantly apparent.

Note the “Ralph-like” low forming north of Greenland, where warm Atlantic and Chinook air clashes with the cold air over the Archipelago. (Also note that at this point Bastardi and D’Aleo’s forecast of a blocking high forming over Greenland and Canada looks dubious.)

By the 26th the Atlantic flow is streaming as a cross-polar-flow all the way to the Pacific. Sea-ice is pushed north in Fram Strait and from Svalbard (making headlines) and, for one of the few times this winter, sea-ice is spread south through Bering Strait (making no headlines). Svalbard does experience a thaw, but note that above-freezing temperatures never reach the Pole. Much of the mild air must have risen, which likely, when it decended, was what pumped the high pressure as it started to slide down over Scandinavia. The “Beast From The East” clobbered Europe, south of these maps.

By the 27th the cross-polar-flow startws to be bent and repressed to the Eurasian side of the Pole. A good map from the “Tropical Tidbits” site showed the milder (but below freezing) stream extending all the way to the Pacific, and also showed howslender it was, compared to the bulk of bitterly cold arctic air it penetrated.

What shows less well is how this flow was pinched off, down at its source in the Atlantic. (This is because surface air temperatures immediately look warmer, once over water, even though that air retains much of its chill only a hundred feet above the water.) A west-to-east flow came under the big storms crashing into Greenland even as the high pressure over Europe brought a east-to-west flow (the “Beast From The East”) from the other direction. The winds, meeting and curving up to the north, made the southerly flow increasingly arctic in origin, (though moderated by their passage over the Atlantic). Also the “pinch” formed a gale much further south than the Greenland gales, and this gale, unable to head north due to the high pressure, rolled steadily east towards Spain, driving moisture into the cold air over Europe and creating deep snows.

Comment 4 gfs_T2m_nhem_2

By 12z on the 27th the cross-polar-flow was disintergrating, and the Ralph-like feature, (complete with the Ralph-like counterclockwise hook in the isotherm map), was forming between the Pole and the Kara Sea. The high pressure had decended over Scandinavia, (with some record lows set over Greenland Norway), and was spreading across the Atlantic to Greenland, which had in 48 hours switched from being attractive to gales to attracting high pressure.

24 hours later high pressure is building strongly over Greenland, and the negative NAO promised by Bastardi and D’Aleo has appeared, as it were, out of the blue. One has to have great respect for the analogues they use, considering they foresaw the development in October, whereas the computer models only started to see the development ten days beforehand (and I couldn’t see how it was going to happen only four days beforehand.)

The high pressure over Greenland pushed the Ralph-like feature down towards Russia, and with remarkable speed (to me at least) we had the situation completely reversed from when there were gales over Greenland and high Pressure over Russia. The Atlantic-to-Pacific flow was flipped around to Pacific-to-Atlantic, with the process completed by March 2.

At this point the cold was building back at the Pole, (ignored by the media) and something interesting occurred. As part of the blocking high settled down into Canada, part was left behind at the Pole. With a plume of milder air feeding north through Bering Strait, I wondered if the pattern was trying to revert to a “Ralpheena” situation, or to become a more “traditional” zonal pattern.  The Pacific feed had faded by March 6, so now I watch and wonder. My forecast? “Continued wonder”.

I should mention that the sea-ice blown north from Svalbard hasn’t blown back, but the north winds have grown a fresh skin of “baby ice” over those waters. The sea-ice blown south in Bering Strait is starting to be blown north again. The polynya north of Greenland that the media made such a fuss about is skimmed over. One interesting thing (which I’ll likely write about later) is that the Laptev Sea’s export of sea-ice to the north is less this year; the polynyas that usually form along its coast as the sea-ice is pushed north have been rare. This should decrease the ice in the Central Arctic, but in fact the ice in the Central Arctic is thicker than last year.

I also want to play around with the idea of the Pole as a “chimney”, whose “draw” is controlled by a “damper”, but this post is getting too long.

I’ll close by mentioning that once the high pressure arrived in Greenland it created a classic “blocking pattern”, and we saw a magnificent gale explode off the east coast of the USA:

Blocking 1 download

To the lower left in the above picture you can see the shallow, light-turquoise waters of the Bahamas, with the deeper, darker-blue “Tongue Of The Ocean” penetrating those reefs from the north. Nassau,  sheltered at the north of the Tongue Of The Ocean, is protected from all directions except due north. The huge gale was to the due north, over a thousand miles away. Joe Bastardi shared this picture he received from a friend of the breakwater at the mouth of Nassau Harbor yesterday.

Blocking 2 unnamed(2)

I recall sailing into that harbor in far more tranquil conditions. I can’t imagine being down there in a sailboat now. The sky is blue and the sun is warm, but the waves just start getting bigger…and bigger….and bigger….

Up here in New England the huge breakers ate away at the beach by the shore, but all the sand sucked away from the dunes builds an off-shore bar that breaks waves further out, and tends to protect the beach from the next big storm (scheduled to arrive tomorrow.)

I’m thinking I’ll take time off from taxes and bring my grandchildren to the scoured shoreline this coming weekend, to see what the sea has uncovered. (Hopefully a small chest of gold coins). Already the old timbers of a 250-year-old ship appeared from under the washed-away sands, up in Wells, Maine.

Blocking 3 FullSizeRender

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –The Thaw Before The Thtorm–

I have just past my sixty-fifth birthday, with no hope of retirement, and what used to be a joke isn’t all that funny any more. The joke? “I took my retirement back when I was young and could enjoy it”. Ha ha ha. Not all that funny, when you have heard it for the ninety-seventh time,  but I’m getting to be one of those old men who gets repetitive.

It’s also not all that funny when most of my friends are down in Florida, retired. In the old fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, they were the ants, and squandered their youth loyally sticking to a tedious job, as I was free as a bird, because I was the grasshopper, making music as they worked. Now they have pensions and I don’t. Serves me right, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that happy about the situation. If you detect a trace of bitterness in my words, it is because poets are suppose to die young; the grasshopper is suppose to be cut down by the first frost. I don’t see many grasshoppers around these parts bouncing about through the deep snows, but me? The snow gets me hopping, because the alternative is not pretty.

The motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free Or Die”, but in the winter sometimes it is more like “Get your Walkways Snow-Free or Die”, especially if your business depends on clean walkways, and the State Inspector will close you down if every fire-escape isn’t shoveled. I am not prone to foul language, but I have shocked myself with some of the choice vocabulary escaping my lips as I deal with the drifts, even while getting texts on my cellphone from friends reclining by sunny pools in Florida. Can it be that I am becoming a jealous and bitter old coot?

Temperatures have recently been above normal, but that isn’t really helpful this far north. Seven degrees above normal is still below freezing, and it is more likely to snow in this area, with temperatures up around freezing.

Last weekend just enough cold air slid south between southerly warm-sectors to give us snow, even though the warm-sectors were attached to storms that passed well to our north, which usually gives us rain. Saturday the forecast was for 1-3 inches, but Sunday morning dawned upon a fall of 7 inches. Rather than Sunday being a scripturally-correct (as opposed to politically-correct) “day of rest”, I had to clear up the parking lot and paths of my workplace, to prepare for Monday morning. It is bad enough I don’t get to retire to Florida; I don’t even get to rest on Sundays. (Bring out the violins, please.)

To be honest, the workweek’s forecast was for such nice, mild temperatures that I did the minimum of snow-clearing. I cleared the front entrance and the parking lot, but left the mild temperatures to clear the fire escapes and back stairs. If the dreaded inspector had leapt from bed early on Monday Morning, (unlikely), he would seen a reason to “write me up”, as the seven inches had only wilted to four.

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However I will  confess that a fall of sticky, wet snow does make running a Childcare easier, in terms of “curriculum”. This is especially true because certain youths do not seem to be born to sit in rows as children, to train them to sit in cubicles as adults, but rather are born to shift heavy weights outside.

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However so strong was the thaw that, despite the production of seven large snowballs, within twenty-four hours the warmth (and destructive older children) left little sign of the efforts.

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However it did allow me to send texts back to my pals lounging in Florida, which may be just a little bit mean. Or maybe not. After all, if they expect me to rejoice over how they are escaping winter, lounging by a pool, then they should rejoice over how the winter they thought they were escaping isn’t happening, and how I am not suffering, right? So today I sent them this:

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But you will notice, though the thaw continues tomorrow, there is a suspicious-looking snowflake on Thursday. After all, this is February, and New Hampshire isn’t Florida.

The sad fact of the matter is that old-timers always fretted when there was an especially warm spell in the middle of the winter. In some ways their worry seemed comical, as if they were dour pessimists who couldn’t enjoy good weather, for “it will have to be paid for.” However they had a method behind their glowering madness. Some of the biggest storms in the history of the east of the USA were preceded by delightful weather. The legendary “Blizzard of 1888” gave New York City four feet of snow with gusts of hurricane force hurtling between the tall building and heaping drifts to second-story windows. Such a storm would shut down the New York City even with modern plows. But it occurred between March 11 and March 14. What was the situation in New York City on March 10?

March 10, 1888 was a lovely early-spring day in New York City, with temperatures well up into the fifties. People had no idea of what was coming.

I have lost the link I once kept, but one wonderful discovery I once made, while wandering the web, was the description of the Blizzard of 1888 from the eyes of a fisherman who fished south of Long Island. Back in those days sailors had no GPS, computer forecasts, or even engines. They were called sailors because they sailed.

This sailor had headed out in delightful early-spring weather. Then the storm “blew up”. The fisherman described the sky becoming as purple as concord grapes with amazing speed, with flashes of lightning. Then he described the amazing battle with sails and sheets in screaming wind and blinding snow he endured just to get to shore alive, without a single fish to sell. Many other sailors didn’t make it. People paid a high price for fish in 1888, especially the fishermen’s wives.


So I actually should be thankful to even make it to age sixty-five. One-hundred-thirty years ago not all that many made it. Still, I do manage to grouse a fair amount. There are days when sinking at sea seems like heaven to me, when I compare it dealing with a pack of small hellions at a Childcare.

And, in case you wonder, I have been at sea in a small boat in a big storm, and I do know the desperation involved. It is a hugely humbling experience, and little dignity is involved, for a roaring storm cares little about our mortal concept of “dignity”. Yet there is more dignity in that desperate situation than in being a sixty-five year old man dealing with a bunch of little whiny brats children experiencing challenges  to their sense of well-being and self-esteem.  Do modern children respect their elders? I think not.

Often I derive great joy from small children, but Lord Jesus didn’t say “derive great joy” from the little children. He said “suffer the little children”.

And at age sixty-five I confess there are days I roll my eyes to the sky and ask questions that are less than grateful. Is this the culmination of my life? To be a fucking babysitter childcare professional?

There is a story which likely isn’t true, but which makes many smile, involving a children’s-show radio personality called “Uncle Bob” or some such thing, who muttered at the end of a show, when he thought the microphone  was turned off and he was off the air, “That ought to keep the little bastards quiet for another week.” Even if the story is an urban myth, the fact it makes people chuckle (rather than look indignant) seems to suggest children are not all goodness and light, and are things we must “suffer”.

At age sixty-five I’d rather sit by a pool in Florida and study scripture. The fact I chose to take my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it seems like a bad choice to me now. However the choice of fisherman to go out fishing on March 10, 1888 likely seemed like a bad choice to them, on March 11. No matter how we chose to direct the course of our lives, we are bound to sail headlong into storms.

In New Hampshire this happens every cotton-picking year, and is called “winter”. Many retire here, but many don’t last long. Norman Rockwell be damned; pristine snowscapes get old after Christmas, and by February winter gets so old that they shortened the month to 28 days, just to speed up the progress to spring. As March arrives the last thing anyone wants is a huge storm.

However the future does not look tranquil to me. I had hopes that the so-called “arctic vortex” would keep the cold air trapped in a tight circle, whirling at the Pole, but instead that vortex moved south into Canada, and has been making the Canadian Archipelago so cold that even the Eskimos have been staying indoors.

Arctic chill at 85F below zero – So cold, Eskimos advised to stay inside!

My hope was that the cold would wobble back up to the Pole, where it belongs, but that would involve a positive NAO. Instead the exact opposite seems to be developing.

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If the NOA crashes (and I am deeply hoping this forecast is utterly wrong) then the so-called “arctic vortex” becomes deranged, and in layman’s terms this means the cold doesn’t stay north where it belongs. Instead it comes south to bump into the nice, juicy air of our thaw, and all hell can break loose. 1888 can reoccur.

When I look north I can see the amazing cold sitting there up in Canada, in maps Dr Ryan Maue’s hard work makes available at the Weatherbell site.

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The pink in the above map, up in Canada, represents the one temperature where Fahrenheit and Celsius actually agree, -40°. However I wonder to myself, “Is that normal, up there?” Fortunately Dr. Maue also has produced an “anomaly map”, which tells us if temperatures are above-normal or below-normal.

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The second map shows that the temperatures are thirty-degrees-below-normal, even by Canadian standards. To have that air come south and mingle with air that is thirty-degrees-above-normal by the standards of Chicago seems unwise to me. It is like mixing gasoline with a fire.

But it hasn’t happened yet. It is an amazingly mild night for February in New Hampshire, with temperatures above 50°F (10°C). Tomorrow it might touch 70°F (21°C).

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In the warm thaw before the storm I bask
My old bones, like a sailboat sliding
Through slack seas, and try not to glumly ask
What the clouds on high foretell, for deciding
The word on high speaks of a hurricane
Spoils the brief joy of a midwinter day
Which smells like a rose midst the jabbing pain
Of thorns. Roses are brief, but thorns stay
All year. I’ll take flowers when they come,
Well aware that soon enough my loose belt
Will need to be hitched. For a time I’ll strum
My harp; not drum my fingers. I have felt
Cruel sleet before, and know it is best
To face a fierce storm after getting some rest.



Thursday’s text to friends in Florida:

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And a map to remember:

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They call it an anal ysis? Hmm…

LOCAL VIEW –Dust Versus Crust–

Robert Frost wrote a poem I often recite in the winter woods, as it is short and easy to remember:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I rued.

This poem seems to typify the way a northern mind grasps at straws of beauty, in order to survive the general state of depression that deepens as the long northern winter goes on and on and on (and on.)

After Christmas, what holiday is there? New Years? What is that? Is turning a page on the calendar really worth rejoicing about? And the birthdays of defunct people, who had far more dignity than modern politicians, tends to depress me more than they inspire me, for I am reminded how dark our days are. And finally, you have to admit “Ground Hog’s Day” seems downright desperate, in terms of holidays.

Eventually we have to become self reliant, and display the sort of guts Robert Frost displayed, finding the beauty he shared in his poem. It was a dark day, a day he “rued”, yet he found something bright, not only for himself, but for me, (for he shared it with me [and countless others] though he never knew me).

It is nice to be able to share, but apparently some at Google do not think certain individuals, such as myself, should be sharing. If they feel a certain view is politically incorrect, (such as my view that arctic sea-ice is not going to be melted away by 2013 as promised, because it hasn’t), then they will seek to prevent people from sharing their views by artificially reducing the possibility their posts will be seen on Google’s search engine.  Power corrupts, and Google has apparently sunk to the level of a third world dictatorship, by virtually “disappearing” political opponents.

To be honest, I prefer being virtually “disappeared” to the reality version, for in many ways being unknown and unseen is everyday, for artists. Even Robert Frost went years without being well known, and many artists are simply not born for fame. Great singers have remained the cherished property of a small church choir their entire lives, radiating their beauty to a select few, making a poor congregation wealthy even as the world never knows what it is missing. This actually happens more often than not; the greatest comics perform before a crowd of eight at a backwater bar, as the wealthy go impoverished.

Despite obvious shortcomings, wealth and power tricks and fools people, and therefore those at Google deem it wise to stifle Freedom of Speech, and consequently live in a sort of self-created deafness. At best perhaps some think that, like members of Boston’s old, Puritan “Watch and Ward” society, they protect the innocent from some sort of “porn”, (by studying a great deal of it themselves). But the poor are neither as innocent nor naive as some suspect, and the soap that cleans a slum is not made by calling slums illegal, nor by making talk about back alleys be whispers.

In any case, where bringing up a topic such as “arctic sea-ice” once was a way to generate “hits” at a website, now it generates dead silence.

I find this a bit winter-like, and depressing. To share, and generate a will to censor rather than reciprocal sharing, is like being warm and catchinga cold blast from the north. It seems the upper crust is attempting to forbid sharing, in a sense denying the dust that delights, and leaving only a day “rued”.

The snow is glued to the swaying forest
And the northern blasts can’t shake any loose.
There seems no subtlety to this contest.
There is something solid in the crunch of boots
Across a frozen scene, something as starched
As the hairstyles of evening newscasters.
Where is the dust of snow falling from arched
Hemlocks, jostled by crows, that old masters
Wrote poems about? Is it too delicate
And too precious for times given to louts?
No, for the crunch of boots pontificate
Of a glue that was wet, before “Ins” became “Outs”.
Warm wet winds during the night, as I sleep,
Makes all trees birches, with oaths they must keep.

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Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against sitting in a warm penthouse sipping brandy. I’d do it myself, if invited. Nor do I have anything against an above-it-all attitude. (Brandy has that effect.) It is just that feeling above it all can result in one looking down their nose and becoming haughty, and sneering that others are mere children, mere dogs.

Be that way, if you must. The children and dog will not mind, as long as you leave them alone to play. The dog will play keep-away with a stick, delighting in the attention of ten kids running after it.

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Do you know what I think? I think those who scorn children and dogs are strangely threatened by the fact children and dogs have no real interest in money or fame, and would rather play in the snow than perch in a penthouse. Therefore they want to butt in and make children and dogs see they are important. They demand respect. They will outlaw sharing, unless you obey their rules.

But life goes on outside Silicon Valley. Alas for the Googlites, who make a winter without warmth, even in sunny California.

LOCAL VIEW –Sickbed Sonnets–

We’ve had the ‘flu passing through our neck of the woods pretty severely this year, to a degree that not even my over-developed sense of humor can take lightly. When a local mother-of-four succumbs, the joking ceases. There is nothing like death to jolt people from their petty concerns. Things that seemed very important two weeks ago are not even remembered.

To a certain degree that was what my sense of humor was always all about. Things that people care deeply about, seen from a different angle, don’t matter a hill of beans. To some it is of paramount importance if Bobby asks Susie to the prom, but when both are too sick with the ‘flu to attend, all the fuss about what clothing matters becomes absurd. My mischief has always been to see the absurdity before the prom is cancelled.

I tend to be a good friend to have when you have been through a rough spell, and have lost the things that status-seekers crave. When you are a winner you have a girl at either elbow, but when you are in a losing streak they vanish, and people avoid you like you have the plauge….or the ‘flu. But I always had a soft spot for losers. Why? Because losers see beyond the superficiality of money and popularity and power, and know a person is still possessed of a heart and all a heart’s needs, even when they are down in the gutter. What really matters is deeper.

To get the ‘flu tends to be a reminder, a tap on the shoulder midst the hectic hubbub of ceaseless pettiness we call “important”. It is a reminder that we are mortal, and that our efforts to deal with death by completely avoiding the subject are going to eventually be in vain.

I think I was made especially aware of how fragile our worldly dreams are because my father suffered the indignity of getting polio at age 34, after going through all the trouble of becoming a surgeon. After college, after graduate school, after internship, he finally “had it made”. Then some stupid virus came and ruined everything. And although he fought his way back to being a top surgeon, he was a cripple. Like an athlete who has made a comeback, he was an investment with small print, like a loaf of bread with an expiration date in the near future.

Local football fans are facing the same expiration-date-inevitability as the heroic local quarterback has passed age forty. (Also he hurt his hand during practice before the “Big Game” this weekend.) Even heroes like Tom Brady face what the rest of us face, though he is doing it in the spotlight, and people speak of “Tom Vs Time”. The rest of us do it in dark moments of our lives, in sickbeds as we face the ‘flu.

For me the redeeming side of being sick was that it reminded me that there is something beyond the superficial stuff we tend to be too engrossed in. What matters when you are incapable of pursuing Money, Popularity and Power? It is what I call Poetry. Or perhaps Heaven.

Actually being sick was not all bad, when I was a boy, because it let me play hooky from school. Once the worst was past, I got to look out the window without getting in trouble for doing so. I got to avoid the schoolmarm-emphasis on worldly stuff, stuff that matters in terms of Money, Popularity and Power, and instead to just be dreamy, and roam the realms of heaven. I did not much like the part of the ‘flu that involved terrible aching and vomiting, but there was something to be said for a fever of 104°F, when it came to opening up vistas of unusual imagination. It was like drugs without the expense or risk of arrest.

Unfortunately my most recent bout of the ‘flu didn’t involve much fever, nor altered consciousness. Basically it was all achy muscles and upper-respiratory congestion,  which reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and makes you mentally slow. Worst was I was able to get up after a weekend in bed, as my wife stayed in bed a week, and this meant it was up to me to run the business, though I was definitely in an enfeebled state, and not truly recovered.

One thing I noticed about the upper-respiratory congestion is that you cannot produce as much heat.  It is like the damper for your inner fire is closed down. Your metabolism limps. When you stand outside, the cold sinks down between your shoulder blades. Likely the creeping chill could kill you, if you overdid it, so I used every excuse to keep the children at my Childcare indoors. I kept the place open, but we did not live up to our reputation as a place that focuses-upon and rejoices-in the outdoors. Heck, the outdoors is not worth dying for.

Not that it isn’t good to stir your blood, and cough the crud from your lungs, with some vigorous hiking, if you keep it brief.  But I waited until the wind died. Then, once outside, I kept moving even when the kids dawdled, impatiently striding back and forth like a captain on a deck. Also I built blazing campfires whenever possible, (though I suppose the smoke wasn’t good for my lungs). Lastly I fled back indoors as soon as I could. But I did get some photographic evidence that we did fight the ‘flu by stepping out.

The recent thaw resulted in flooding, but then winter froze the flood even as the waters sank back down, leading to ice left high and dry by the flood.

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The kids were fascinated by the formations, and rejoiced that they could shatter the ice without getting in trouble for breaking stuff. The air was filled with the tinkling smashes of what sounded like hundreds of champagne glasses.

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Then they burned off a lot of steam running and sliding

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And plotting ambushes of the the other children and teachers.

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But, to be honest, I did not feel my ordinary delight in watching children bring their heavenly wonder to a hike. The ‘flu had me at low ebb and I was barely able to tolerate the usual and typical misbehavior. Tolerance is a gift, and I was in short supply, and and bad words barely were restrained from blurting from my bitten lips. Tolerance? I could barely tolerate going to work. Someone had to do it, but I didn’t feel I was getting my proper share of pity for being the poor old geezer stuck with the job of pretending he was the the healthy one in a ‘flu epidemic. I had to pity my wife at home, and pity the parents who looked a bit green around their gills as they picked up their pitiful children, who also looked a bit green around the gills. But who pitied me?

In terms of what the government thinks matters, surely a ‘flu epidemic puts a dint in things like “economic recovery”. And for churches who care most about their collection platters,  a ‘flu makes the congregation less “giving” and more needy. In terms of “production”, and Money, Popularity and Power, the ‘flu is ruinous. It’s depressing, and exhausting, and all I did when I got home was open cans of chicken soup, and then collapse in bed.

It’s incredible how much time I’ve spent sleeping. My sleep schedule is all out of whack. When you crawl into bed at seven in the evening and don’t get up until seven in the morning, then there will be times in the wee hours you are staring into the darkness, watching the years pass before your eyes, and not necessarily feeling all that poetic or heavenly about what you witness.

Who needs that? Where was the poetry? Where was the sense of playing hooky from responsibility, and gazing out the window? Out the window was only darkness. So I’d thrash out of bed and stump downstairs and crank up the heat and make my computer screen my window. If I couldn’t manage the poetry, I’d let other poets do the job. I’d hop in my time-machine and travel to the time of the first Queen Elisabeth, and Shakespeare.

One thing that struck me was that, while Shakespeare was operating a theater and making money with his pen, for many poetry was a world outside of the ordinary interests in fame and wealth. There were no million-sellers, but rather manuscripts were copied by hand and handed around between friends. It’s amazing so much was preserved and later printed. Even Shakespeare’s works were on the verge of being lost, before the first folios were printed. The world of art existed in a universe all its own, beyond the control of the elite yet moving even kings and queens.

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Of course, one might say it was only the elite who had the capacity to write, but what fascinates me is the hints that the ordinary man was also interested in the poetry. Shakespeare’s plays were popular among the illiterate, and parts were memorized and recited on the street. People did not need to be literate to delight in doggeral, and there was plenty of criticism of both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the gathering storm in Europe. The common people had minds, and used them, even at a time when lives were short and cheap, and living situations were often squalid.

One thing I’d like to know more about was the thirst on the part of the illiterate to become literate. Where I now see all too much “dumbing down” going on in education, looking through my time-machine I seem to see there was an eager and powerful drive at that time to learn. Little schools popped up in odd places, and when people noticed a child had a mind open to learning, there seemed to be a real zeal towards educating that promising mind.

One way to measure the value people put on learning, and higher forms of thought, is to consider how expensive it was to mail a letter. A penny could buy a loaf of bread, or mail a letter. During times of famine the loaf was small and of low quality, and at the same time the price of a letter might rise up to four pennies, yet still people had a craving to communicate. Writing was so important that the English government even instituted penny postage as a law of the land. Why? What was so important about allowing people to write each other? Likely the wealthy realized promoting commerce would be good for business, and they could become richer. However greed alone was not in control. There were undercurrents of political opposition involved.

Robert Burns was unusual in that he became popular in the late 1700’s, and his death was greatly lamented in 1796 even as he died. Yet he was not stuffy, nor did he write above people’s heads. Here’s his “Epitaph On My Own Friend”.

An honest man here lies at rest,
As e’er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

One thing interesting to me, as I drifted along in my time-machine, is how much other poetry was anonymous. You can see perhaps only the slightest hint of a Jacobite sentiment in a poem by a Scotsman, but he thought it best to keep his name from being associated with a work. Or perhaps we see only initials, and wonder who the poet was. Yet the poems endure. Who was “R.A.D.”, writing from his sickbed in 1799?

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And who “G.H.D.”, writing around 1815? What made him reluctant to publicize his name? (Perhaps he was toeing some line the official church did not approve of toeing.)

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By the 1840’s the greed of the wealthy Scottish landowners had been made all too obvious by the Clearances and Potato Famine, and a Scottish church existed that refused all donations from the wealthy landowners, so that members would feel free to speak. Still authors kept quiet about their names, as they dared speak what seems fairly orthodox to us today, but was shocking at its time ( or shocking to certain wealthy individuals who deemed themselves above judgement.)

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And out of this soil rose the chronically unwell Robert Lewis Stephenson, long neglected as being a mere writer of children stories like “Treasure Island” and of horror stories like “The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, (in the 1973 2,000-page “Oxford Anthology of English Literature” Stevenson was entirely unmentioned), yet a poet in his own right.

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He wrote his own epitaph for his grave, in Samoa, where he died in 1897,

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

And so, after this reading,  I’d go back to bed in the dark of night with bits of poetry gleaned from my sickbed time-travel, and a sense a hint of heaven was gloaming the dark outside my window, though true dawn was hours away. And perhaps that is something you need when sick: The idea of a life after death, after ruin, after failure, after being retired against your will and put out to pasture in some meadow uncomfortably close to the glue factory.

I didn’t much feel like rising at dawn. Extra rest seemed a good idea, but, as I said earlier, sometimes you are stuck with running the show. Though I’d rather dream out the window of existential topics, I was stuck with being the pragmatic pillar. Me! Of all people! I can’t tell you how indignant it made me feel. But there did tend to be a brief moment, just when the coffee and aspirin were kicking in, that I thought maybe I could whip off a sonnet. Maybe I could quit the dratted pragmatism just long enough to rhapsodize about other-worldly beauty. But just then my phone would chirp, and I’d be plunged into the banal.

This was particularly aggravating because I had made a New Year’s Resolution to focus more on writing and less on Childcare. In a most pragmatic manner I had inked out the decrease in income I’d endure, hiring more to work for me, and working less myself.  But the ‘flu makes a mockery of worldly plans. And it probably serves me right. Who ever heard of a pragmatic poet?

In any case, I often tell people I took my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it. I even went through a Gothic spell of morbidly contemplating death, which is an activity usually reserved for old men. Therefore I can’t expect to get another retirement, now that I’m doddering, can I? It wouldn’t be fair to those poor fellows who worked hard when young and now collect pensions. Now it is their turn to go through Gothic spells and behave like bohemians. True, they look a bit silly behaving that way at their age, (and it also seems to involve revolting amounts of Viagra), but they earned it, while I have earned the non-retirement I endure. (For all I know they may envy me as much as I envy them, for the grass is always greener on the other fellow’s grave.)

It was while glumly considering my non-retirement during this long, long week, that it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to write a sickbed sonnet. I’d already done it, back in my Gothic period, back when I was a happily retired man of twenty-one in 1974. Not that I wasn’t busy. I was involved in all sorts of unprofitable efforts surrounding a commune, and also running a landscaping business to scrape together just enough to get by on, when I suddenly was clobbered by a late May springtime ‘flu. None of my hippy friends rushed to my aid, as I think all assumed I was merely sulking in my room, and therefore I was abruptly alone for several days, and used the chance to write sixteen sonnets. Or, not exactly sonnets, but 16 stanzas with the rhyme scheme of ABCBADCDCDEFEFGG. Today I went up to the attic to see if I could find the old poem, and, though I couldn’t find the final draft, I did find, to my great delight, among spiderwebs and thick dust, the notebook holding the original draft.

Forgive me for sharing what in some ways is juvenile, but I think in another way the old poem holds the vision of heaven seen most clearly from a sickbed. (Some of the poem was written while having a fever of over a hundred.)

                 FEVER DREAM

10:00 PM
Bedridden, burnt by fever’s blaze,
I toss and turn within a flame
That warps all with wavering light.
Nothing seems to stand the same.
All is twisted to my wild gaze
That sees all routine and plans
Dissolve, as do day and deep night,
Confused to chaos as fever fans
The destruction of what I held
As real, knew was rock firm,
Trusted until mocking madness welled
Into my broiled brain, forced me to squirm
Half-asleep through unmeasured days
And, half-awake, war the night’s blaze.

All I knew to do cannot be done.
I cannot work, nor can I play,
And even thinking’s not the same;
When I wish green my thoughts flow gray
And leap, like thunder from a gun
Of ambush, and distort, forming
Abstracts sickening; somehow lame
Though nothing in my brain’s wild storming
Can be crippled, for nothing’s real
Enough to be believed. I know
Logically these sights are false, but feel
Panic, for they remain, and show
A tumbled world I can’t accept.
The clay conspires where I stepped.

2:00 AM
A tennis shoe has teeth, and grins
At me up from a cloud of red
And flaps his tongue with elegance.
I can’t remember what he said.
A scolding finger shakes, and pins
Me desperate. I can’t recall
And that is bad, and I can sense
It’s angry as it’s growing small.
One pink finger upon the black
Background, very small and terrible
For small it gains and will attack
And overwhelm the weak quibble
Of reason I scratch the black for.
Reason’s old lock fell from the door…

5:00 AM
O Morning’s first cool growth of green
Fills my window with wideness,
Distance and openness that destroys
Fever’s clamps, pinches and hot press.
Liquid birdsong cools the view’s sheen
Of clearness: So clean it wavers,
Flows green, joins the bird’s joyous noise,
Becomes taste a Cezanne savors,
Becomes a hand to cool my brow.
O the arms of wide open morn!
O to be rocked in a lullaby’s bough
And to give up, right now, being torn
By my mad mind. Now’s not too soon
To sink in the calm of a swoon.

7:00 AM
I wake again, and see the sun
An inch or two above the earth.
O I value ny short sweet sleep
Beyond all my measures of worth,
For rested I can face the dry run
Of fever time, of short wry naps,
Short gasps awake, and long times deep
In the world in between. Perhaps
half alseep, but without rest;
Perhaps awake, but without chores
To do or plan or beat breast
About. My fever’s chaining roars
Make be be free on a huge shore.
When was it I felt this way before?

8:00 AM
Three inches high, the sun is white
With a tint of rose, and it slides
Summer soft through my north window,
Slanting to the wall where it rides
Slowly downwards. It’s rose-white light
Slips as slowly as snails explore
When afraid, yet its a great show.
When have I felt this way before?
The light is a square, a pooled sheen
Of rich softness. An apple tree’s
Leafed twig bobs its shadow. I’ve seen
This picture move in a sweet breeze
Like this before, framed on my wall…
I remember now! I was small.

I was a boy and school was out
And suddenly I was set free
From all the routine I had known.
My parents did their best for me.
They gave me a room and stayed out.
They gave me books but no lessons.
Life’s painful rules I wasn’t shown.
I wore fine clothes and gobbled tons
Of food, but remained thin and wild
Through racing about the country side
And staying up late: A spoiled child
Reading books with dreamy eyes wide.
With school out my friends were gone.
Society-less, I journeyed on.

What painter touched those far, far clouds
Silver and purple? Who carved curves
And moved them, boomed them, in sky swells?
Who swooned those sweet swallows quick swerves?
When the shy flicker, who through leaf shrouds
And rich woods usually blasts
Wagging away from my slow stealth’s,
Flies sky high above tall trees masts,
Flickering above the valley’s bowl
From hilly wood to hilly wood,
Is it his soul, or my swamped soul,
That swoons? O! If I only could
Burst raves of song for his great flight,
His journey into giant light!

O those feelings! Sometimes at night
Out of nowhere they would appear
So marvelously I’d dash across
The room and in wild, sudden fear
Haul open the windows. My fright
Was so great I’d almost cry out,
But to who? About what? A loss
Overwhelmed me. I’d hold back my shout
And also the next day’s sung praise.
Who understands what fever-mad
Men babble about, or what their gaze
Sees, or knows? Its pitifully sad
For fear’s not squelched; Joy wilts inside
When men are afraid to confide.

Time forces the most dreamy child
To dream less, to repress the far
Flung mental mountains for whats’s real,
Or said to be real but will mar
The beauty of life; the fresh, wild
Spontaneous, child-like beauty
Of life, by clipping with sick zeal
The wide-reaching wings of wild, free
Thought, one wing light and one wing dark
But together beating out of night’s
Ignorance, driven by the heart’s spark
Towards the embrace of a Great Light.
When wings are clipped flight’s work is lost
As is black fear, but O! The cost!

A flock of birds squats by the sea
With every wing clipped, and each
With few fears. A great, sandy bar
Juts far out, protecting the beach,
And no bird has any time free
To do other than gobble food
That thrives beneath each rotting spar
And stone, in sand, and nicely stewed
In muddy low-tide pools. What fools
These gulls are! Their clipped wings
And all their inventions and rules
Are to ensure that they are kings
Of one small beach. For all their squawk
They’ve never heard of the Great Auk.

High in clouds the one Father Gull
Smiles on his fledglings who won’t fly.
He has ways to grow new feathers
On their wings, to patiently pry
Open the rusted lock of dull
Reason and dull rules from the doors
Of their minds. He changes weathers
And sand bars slip away from shores.
Disaster, death and fever strip
Old routines and customs, gripped tight
By the birds, away with one rip.
The wisdoms He gave to soothe fright
And ease growing pains they used to play
Wing-clipping games, so He sweeps them away.

Away! Away! I see wisdom
Scattered among tumbling clouds
And shaken birds rising as one flock
Shattered; wild, white wheeling crowds
Searching screeching upwards, freed from
Their illusion of paradise.
The Wisdom waits, and won’t talk.
Birds must find it with their own eyes
To realize what It’s always said
But logic’s lock is off the door…
I wake. My fever spins my head.
I’m tied in blankets on the floor.
The window’s light now frames my face.
I’ve drempt a dream I can’t erase.

All that I’ve learnt’s near nothing now.
What I knew as a boy’s now gold.
All my hard developed good habits
Are but good habits. I have told
Myself to do, and will allow
Myself to be pleased that I’ve done
What was needed…sometimes…but rabbits
Bound into the air. Big crows run
With the barreling breeze. Bent back
They still strive on, so I hurl
Quick joy up to the blustering black,
Feel fear, and only know that clouds pearl
Over, rolling slowly to sea,
And that is where I want to be.

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Ah, to be twenty-one again, when even getting sick was invested with such drama it could go on for sixteen stanzas!

LOCAL VIEW –Christmas Dispirit–

As a person brought up as an Unitarian, it was my understanding that all that was referred to as a “miracle” in the Bible had a scientific explanation.  For example, when Moses parted the Red Sea, it likely was that he just happened to be at the right place at the right time; it was explained to me that the sea often withdraws just before the onrush of a tsunami. The Jews crossed a low area at the right time, and when the Egyptians tried to follow, the onrushing tsunami got them.  Easy peasy. All explained.

There were other miracles harder to explain, such as Jesus walking on the water, and these events tended to be brushed away as exaggerations or lore. Or, if that sort of blunt dismissal seemed impolite, the miracles simply were not mentioned.

This attitude tended to be a sort of wet blanket on a lot that seemed wondrous to a child, including Christmas. It was as if some felt it was their duty to stamp out amazement. I recall the words “it’s only” were often used to dismiss the remarkable, as in “it’s only a meteor” or “it’s only northern lights.”

If I had to take a guess at what made this pragmatic dourness so strong an attitude in New England, I’d say that in the mists of the past (the late 1600’s) belief had spun out of control into the realms of hate, resulting in the witch trials New England is infamous for, and no one wanted to go back there again.

Also, because Boston had stood at the forefront of modern medicine for over a century, one nudged against a conflict caused by modern medicine challenging some traditional attitudes towards healing. Healing was formerly a wonder largely in the hands of God, but when “germs” were introduced as a new idea (around 1830) the idea that germs existed seemed to challenge God’s power and authority, (not that cleanliness wasn’t stressed, in the Bible.)  A hundred years later the discovery (actually a rediscovery) of antibiotics completely amazed people, to a point antibiotics were called “miracle” drugs.

Up until that point the prognosis wasn’t hopeful for sufferers of certain bacterial infections such as staff, tuberculosis, or syphilis. Whereas blood poisoning might kill you swiftly, (a president’s son died from a blister on the heel he got playing tennis, in roughly twelve hours), slower bacteria such as tuberculosis often caused a long and miserable death. Syphilis basically rotted the brain, adding madness to the prolonged misery. People nowadays can’t imagine the sudden change brought about by penicillin, especially when it was new and bacteria had no resistance. Hopelessly doomed people became well over night. It was as if Christ walked through a hospital, laying His hands on people and making them instantly well, only rather than a marvelous Man it was a little pill. There was a huge surge of hope and gratitude, and no one even thought of suing the doctors (for a while). Nor did people seem to remember to thank God.

Antibiotics didn’t cure viral infections, or cancer, but it was assumed a new pill would come along and cures were just around the corner. Anything seemed possible. In a sense there was faith, but now the faith was in pills (and vaccines) .

This belief-in-pills reached its most ridiculous levels in the field of psychology,  where belief-in-God was described as a neurosis or fixation, and the agony and ecstasy of spiritual search were explained away as being due to hormones and dopamine levels. Some of the pills handed out to doctors and by doctors as free samples are now known to have had horrific consequences, and are banned, but at the time the cure for a housewife’s depression was “mother’s little helper” and amphetamines, and suburban women walked around with eyes like locomotive headlights.

Children are observant and not as foolish as some think, and I was aware some housewives (including my mother) sometimes behaved a bit oddly, without understanding the connection to pills. But children accept a lot they are told without question, and I did learn to scoff at “non-scientific” beliefs at some early age without even thinking about it. I felt a lot of childish wonder, but it was largely about the latest scientific discoveries. Both the scoffing and the wonder seemed to largely come from my father, who was a surgeon.

Walking in the woods with my father was, for me, an experience in heaven, for he had a tremendous awareness of the interrelations between various plants and animals, (what is now called “ecology”, though no one used that word back then). He saw, or seemed to glimpse, a Whole, a sort of Oneness, and, without ever hearing the word “God” mentioned, I was enchanted and enthralled. (I never said “it’s only nature.”) Unfortunately these walks were few and far between. One reason the suburbs were so insidiously empty was because all the Dad’s were gone, being workaholics elsewhere. This physical divorce between the workplace and the home eventually effected marriages.

When divorces went from being very rare to quite common in the late 1960’s it didn’t make wives happier, and it only made the suburbs worse. It was around this time my mind began to grapple with the possibility something was missing. What was missing was obviously “Dad”, but there was something else, a sort of “spirit”, and it was especially noticeable around Christmas.

It did not occur to me I was on any sort of spiritual search. The very word “spirit” had negative connotations. “Spirit” seemed linked with superstition, and also with being childish, with a belief in a sort of Santa Claus. Instead, when I thought at all, I felt I was scientific, and after something science hadn’t discovered yet. Rather than an unscientific word like “miracle” I preferred the word “coincidence.”  I had noticed a glitch in the data that might suggest an undiscovered element, a sub-atomic particle, an unseen gravity (such as a “black hole”, which was just then being considered as a possible explanation for oddities noticed through telescopes.)

It was a very empty and gray time, as I remember. At age fourteen I spent a lot of time slouching around with a young Jewish pal nicknamed “Skeeter”, mostly grouching about how unjust young females were and how they should smile at us more, but also talking about other topics, including God. I recall talking about a media report “God is dead”, and deciding He couldn’t be dead because God was a concept, and a concept has no pulse or heartbeat, and therefore can’t be alive, and therefore can’t die. Also the media confidently announced scientists had “created life in a test-tube” (actually they had strung together a molecule resembling DNA), and both Skeeter and myself became depressed by that news, because if man could create life then God seemed strangely useless. Why this depressed us I’m not sure, but then, we could be depressed by just about anything at age fourteen, and these sullen moods tended to alternate with zany moods where Skeeter and I  bounded about like deranged gazelles.

When we were in slouch-mode we tended to walk with our hands thrust halfway into the front pockets of our jeans and our shoulders sharp and cynical. I tended to suggest things we might do to make the dull town more interesting, and Skeeter tended to supply the brakes. We did manage to go few places we should not have gone, without being caught, and did get in trouble at times, but those are stories for another evening. For the most part we walked and talked and did nothing. I often would scorn him for doing homework and getting good grades, and regaled him with tales of all the fun I’d had while he worked, and sometimes the tales I told were even true.

One secret crime I can now confess. The statute of limitations is up, after fifty years. There was a mysterious person in town who would sneak into the church, even after they began locking the doors to stop him. This person wildly rang the bell, for from ten to thirty seconds, often in the dusk before the sun was up in the morning. Skeeter could hear the bell, and knew it was me, but Skeeter kept the secret. He was a friend I could trust, and I told him other secrets I held close to my heart, which I told no one else.

As Christmas approached one year I began to ventilate to Skeeter all my mixed feelings about Christmas. As a Unitarian I was amazingly uneducated about what the holiday actually celebrates, because one thing about Unitarians of that time was that they didn’t need to go to church unless they felt like it, and in my parent’s case that was never. Or, to be more accurate, when I was small they did go on Christmas and Easter, and we did say grace before our meals, but they eventually dropped such archaic traditions. (Perhaps it only follows that their divorce manifested soon afterwards.) In any case, the reason-for-the-season was never talked about, and I was therefore learning in the dark. (Come to think of it, I learned about sex the same way. Back then some things were simply not discussed.)

It is really amazing what an ignoramus I was, but one thing about being fourteen was that I didn’t want to admit I didn’t know, and pretended I did know. Often this involved keeping my mouth shut and trying to learn by listening. Not that I always learned much by listening.

Besides my Jewish friend Skeeter I had a Catholic friend nicknamed Baffles. Like Skeeter Baffles was a good student, but he was so good I could never hope to lead him astray in the manner I led Skeeter astray. He wouldn’t go out walking under streetlights after dark with me. He was more moral than I was, and I think I was jealous, and with the weird logic of youth this made me want to make him jealous back.

What I liked to do was horrify Baffles by telling him, each morning at the bus stop, what I’d been up to the night before.  He largely scorned my tales as fabrications (and some were). After all, Baffles had known me since first grade, and could recall me arising for show-and-tell and speaking of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton I vividly described finding in the woods behind my house. But he began to doubt less, once Skeeter could vouch for me. I think he didn’t keep my bragging to himself, and people in my neighborhood began to be more careful about drawing their shades, once they knew a couple of Peeping Toms were on the loose, for some of our scientific research did border upon voyeurism. However there were no sex-education classes in school back then, and how else was a fatherless boy to learn? In like manner, how was a boy who never attended Sunday School to learn about God?

One time I told Baffles I’d sneaked into the Catholic Church with my big sister, and we had drunk holy water from a porcelain sink by the entrance. With eyes like saucers Baffles told me I was not only damned, but just plain gross.  Another time Skeeter told Baffles Jesus was a Jew, and there was a terrific argument at the bus stop.

This sort of discussion didn’t seem to be getting me very far forward, in terms of my religious education. At one point I decided to sit down to study the Bible myself. I lasted around five chapters into Genesis, and was defeated by the first “begats”. Yet I did notice some change in mood, when I made the attempt. I liked the highfalutin language, the “thee” and “thou” of King James. Although to me Genesis didn’t make as much intellectual sense as dinosaurs did,  I sensed some change in the atmosphere. I also noticed it when I crept into the church to ring the bell in the pitch dark before dawn. I decided perhaps it was just a superstitious fear, such as the creepy feeling I got when walking by a graveyard after dark, but as a young scientist I parked the observation with the data I labeled “coincidence”.

As soon as you start talking about a “change in mood” and “atmosphere” you are in fact broaching the boundaries of science and entering the landscapes of art, but I hadn’t yet discovered poetry. Instead, when my heart felt unscientific stuff, I tended to express myself by lying. I’d brag about something I hadn’t actually done, and then feel ashamed about my dishonesty. It can be rough, being fourteen, especially when the only prayer you have heard was sung by a rock group called the “Animals.”

I didn’t get much understanding, even from Skeeter. I think that, if I had felt understood, my life would have been different. In the half century since I’ve noticed that after I’ve had a good talk with someone I have less of an urge to write. It is when no one listens that the yearning for fellowship undergoes metamorphosis, and a mere garrulity becomes poetry. In my case the process went through an intermediate stage of fabrications.

I suppose this occurs because, when your heart aches but you lack the ability to find the words, you enter the landscape of the subconscious.  When you have awareness but lack words you are in an ambiguous state, wherein you have awareness yet lack awareness. You have the awareness of a mood but not the awareness of the words, and the mind produces a dream, rich with symbols, which is factually untrue. When one states, “My love is like a red, red rose”, it is a baldfaced lie.

For some reason I don’t understand I was uncomfortable with lying. I didn’t go to church, so there was no religious reason not to lie; perhaps it simply wasn’t scientific to be inaccurate. In the years since I’ve met others who live lives full of lies, and they never seem the slightest bit troubled, but my lies disturbed me. I lied, and didn’t understand why I did what I did.

One time I was midst a self-created anguish over some girl I never had the courage to talk to. I’d gone to a high-school dance and never dared even speak with her, let alone ask her to dance, which begs the question, “Why did you go to dances?” (Good question. I dreaded them beforehand, was miserable during them, and felt humiliated afterwards.) Rather than going home after the dance I went on a long walk in the night, feeling the adolescent ache of one who wants to communicate but hasn’t a clue where to begin. I wanted to be noticed, and invented a story I wanted to impress people with. In my story I was set upon by hoodlums “from the next town” and fought a brave battle, but was knocked down and lay unconscious in the snow. To make my tale seem more true I put a tiny scratch on my face with a rock. Then I went and lay in the snow under the bedroom window of the girl in question, imagining I’d be discovered at dawn and….and then what? Comforted? I think that was my original scheme, but after laying in the snow ten minutes I began to question my own wisdom. After fifteen minutes I scientifically concluded snow is not a good bed-sheet to spend a night upon. I got up and walked home, (leaving an odd angel in the snow), and as I walked I muttered to myself about what a liar I was. (The word used back then was “phony”).

The next time I trudged with Skeeter he heard a lot of talk on my part about how I wasn’t going to be a phony any more. This likely made him wonder. He knew I was a liar, but also that sometimes I did what he didn’t dare, such as ring the church bells at four AM. He didn’t know which things I was saying were complete balderdash, and which were true. He likely should have bluntly inquired, “What were you doing that was phony?” He didn’t, which I appreciated, because that allowed me to be mysterious and keep him guessing.

The problem with strict honesty was that it stifled the urge to speak the unspeakable. The first tender shoots of poetry were stomped upon, as the hyperbole involved wasn’t absolutely true. Also there was no poetic mush involved in the idea of manhood back then. Rather than “coming out of the closet” about any tender feelings, one was suppose to be tough. I felt deep shame about crying at movies, and would spend time after a movie sitting in the dark, composing myself and drying my eyes, rather than revealing to anyone I had blubbered. It did occur to me that I might be being dishonest, denying my emotions in that manner, but when I became determined to be honest my determination made a fist. Pictures of me at the time show an unfriendly face, which I thought was manly. Mush wasn’t anything remotely desirable; and rather than “get in touch with” emotion I tended to feel it was wiser to “get over it.”

This denial wasn’t working very well, and was in some ways like a scab over a volcano, which was one reason I blew off steam pacing through the night with Skeeter. As we discussed how phony some people were and how unjust life seemed, Christmas approached, and puzzled me. Certain things made no sense in a world where toughness was seen as a virtue. One thing was that people who were greedy and selfish 51 weeks a year suddenly were giving. Not that small children weren’t greedy, but older folk (and at age 14 I was becoming one of them) became demented with generosity. What was that all about?

Another thing was the attempt on the part of families who were dysfunctional 51 weeks a year to be functional. This was especially painful to me because I never wanted my parents to separate, and now there was a lot of awkwardness and pain surrounding the holidays, wherein we came together without actually coming together. In my case we walked down to visit with my Dad at the Unitarian minister’s house. It was the first time I’d had anything to do with that minister.

The idea of nice things like generosity and togetherness are difficult  to accept for people going through a divorce, even when custody, child support, and property are not contested.  In my parent’s case every thing you can think of was contested. Even their individual sanity was contested. It was not a situation conducive to Christmas spirit, and in fact was tantamount to scientific proof Christmas was humbug, a farce, and phony. I had every reason to sneer and be a cynic, but at the same time I felt I was suppose to be tough; I was suppose to walk around smiling as if nothing was wrong.

And then there were all the lights. I had always liked the lights, and as a small boy used to stand close to them and gaze until mesmerized. The bulbs were bigger back then, and I especially liked the green ones. In a way difficult to describe it was as if I was peering into a crystal ball, and saw entire landscapes, but they were made of moods, like Beethoven’s music. But I was young and naive then. Now I was older, and peered at the darkness.

Even in the darkness I couldn’t escape the carols. They were everywhere, and all sung about stuff that made no sense. After all, as a Unitarian, Jesus was seen as a liberal politician, not all that different from Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Robert Kennedy. Jesus had been assassinated like Gandhi, while King and Kennedy were still alive and making speeches, and there was no big fuss made for the Birthdays of Gandhi or King or Kennedy. Why such a fuss for Jesus?

Last but not least was that I had, parked in my file of scientific “coincidences”, data which suggested that unlikely mood-events could occur on Christmas. One had occurred just the year before:

One of my most miserable pre-Christmases occurred in my boyhood, back in 1966.  My parents had separated, but divorce was rare back then, and very difficult even when both parties wanted it.  My father didn’t want it, but had vanished from the household and was fighting to save his marriage from afar, as my mother fought for freedom.  My mother felt I ought be protected from the details of their dispute, but I found it a sort of hell to have my father vanish, and have no explanation given.

This silence concerning the truth had been going on for a year and a half, and had made me a crazy boy,  and now I was thirteen and just starting to also go crazy with hormones. The misery I felt peaked during holidays, because holidays reminded me of better days, back when I was part of a happy, functioning family. During the dark days of December 1966 I found myself in a sort of private war.  It was invisible to others, but very real to me.

We had gone from being very rich to abrupt poverty, (by the standards of a wealthy suburb,) and I had no money, but had decided I would fight back and give presents even though I was broke.  I struggled to make hand-made presents for people, though my carpentry skills were undeveloped and I had no father to instruct me.  My fingers were bleeding and bandaged from my blunders.

One project had me on the verge of tears and rage.  I was endeavoring to make a pair of tiny hearts, as earrings for my mother, out of red cedar wood, but such wood splits very easily, and over and over, just when a small heart was nearly done, it would split in two and I’d have to start over. I only finished on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and trudged off to a gift shop a mile away to buy the metal fasteners that would turn the wood hearts to earrings.

For several days we’d been in a mild flow from the south, and the snowless landscape was grey under a dull sky.  Life seemed very unfair to me.  Other boys seven hundred miles to the west had a white Christmas, as a modest low swung north to the Great Lakes, but we were on the warm side and the weathermen on all three major Boston channels had said there was no chance of a white Christmas for Boston.  The snowlessness  seemed like insult heaped onto injury to me, and while I didn’t exactly give God a tongue lashing, I was extremely pessimistic about my good deeds ever gaining me any sort of reward.

However my irascible temper lashed out against the darkness by giving gifts, which must have won me a point or two upstairs, because all of a sudden nice things started to happened to me.

When I walked into the gift shop and timidly asked for fasteners, my pout and bandaged fingers must have touched the lady who ran the shop, because she took me under her wing and proceeded to not only sell me two fasteners, but to take me to the back of her shop, (where she repaired jewelry and watches,) and showed me how to glue the fasteners to the wooden hearts, and then got me a tiny box with a cotton square on the bottom to hold my earrings, and even wrapped them for me. I walked out of there in a much better mood, with the bells on the door jingling behind me, and then stopped in my tracks.  Big, fat snowflakes were lazily drifting down from the grey sky.

As I walked home through the snow it seemed absolutely everyone was smiling. The snow was lazy and seemed harmless, but then it grew more steady and swirled, and when I arrived home my poor mother was going through one of her attacks of worry, as my older brothers had gone Christmas shopping in her car. Fortunately I only had to be a thirteen year old male soothing a 42 year old woman for a short while, before my brothers appeared through the snow with her car unscathed, and all was well.

We headed off on foot to Christmas Carols outside a church a half mile away, and for some reason, perhaps due to the snow, rather than the usual thirty people showing up, a hundred-twenty-five showed up to sing in the increasingly heavy snow.  Just as we finished there was a flash of lightning, and long, deep, horizon-to-horizon roll of thunder.

As I turned to walk home, with the thunder still rolling,  a thirteen-year-girl who I secretly adored but whom I had no chance of dating, (as I was not only thirteen, and broke, but also a half-foot shorter than she was,) glanced my way with her face awed by the thunder, and when she saw me watching her,  she smiled an abrupt smile at me that just about knocked me flat on my back in the snow.  And at that point I decided miracles actually could happen, and life might not be so bad, after all.

There was more lightning, and we had around seven inches of snow before it tapered off at midnight. The weathermen were embarrassed, but did give the freak event a name. It was dubbed “The Donner and Blitzen Storm.”  Likely it was a “vort max” that “phased” with a “frontal low,” but, as it wasn’t a huge blizzard and set no records, record books don’t mention it much.  However guys and gals over sixty, who lived between Portland Maine and Philadelphia back in 1966, all seem to remember it.  It was a Christmas miracle,  private and personal, but given to many.

Having this sort of unscientific data in my memory-banks didn’t help me make sense of things. After all, I could dismiss it as “only a mood”. It had occurred back when I was only a kid, a whole year earlier. I’d grown a lot since then; a whole half foot. I was suppose to be beyond such silly, sissy stuff.

Yet as I stomped down streets with Skeeter, our shadows shrinking and lengthening and shrinking again in the pools of streetlight-yellow, on a December night of chilled fog, we muttered about our moods, using a scientific instrument fourteen year old boys own called a moodylator,  (also called a “heart”, by the unscientific). And abruptly I smacked my fist into my palm and said that this year would be different; this year I was going to get to the bottom of a mystery; this year I was going to figure out, for once and for all, what all the fuss about Christmas Spirit was about.

Skeeter then had the unusual experience of being a Jew hearing a Unitarian wonder about what Christmas was all about. As we walked through the foggy night he told me a little he knew about Jesus I didn’t know. (It tells you something about Unitarians, when a Jew knows more about Jesus than they do.) Somehow what he spoke was utterly dissatisfying. I can’t recall what the factoids actually were, but they struck me as being mere trivia, and my moodylator was going berserk, sensing something different.

As Skeeter and I trudged on through the cold fog I began to repetitively mutter, with increasing exasperation, “I just want to know.”  I got louder and louder, until Skeeter got a little alarmed and told me to shut up. I then lost it, and bellowed, “I just want to know!” and then turned away from the street and dashed off into the darkness, down the slope of a snow-covered field. The cold fog rose like a wall of black before me, and behind me I could hear Skeeter’s voice crying, more and more faintly, “Come back! Come back!”

Now it is fifty years later. Sometimes, as I write tales about me and Skeeter and Baffles, I wish I could hop in a time machine and go back to that time and appear in my own story, a sixty-four year old man giving a fourteen year old a bit of advice.

I can’t do that. Only God can be the Creator, appearing in the story He has written. And actually that is the unlikely event that the Christmas Story describes. It is a wonderful tale, even if you don’t believe it is possible, and it amazes me that so many are growing up today and do not know the tale. For some reason some feel telling the tale is politically incorrect, and that Christmas should be celebrated without mentioning what it celebrates.

And what is that? Well, the world was becoming dark, and into the dark there came a Great Light. That is enough to begin with. If you happen to know a fourteen year old who spends a lot of time walking and scowling, do me a favor, and just take the time to tell him the Christmas Story.

LOCAL VIEW –Winter’s Wolves and a Slinking Mink–

How futile was my dreading. Winter comes
Like clockwork: Shorter days and longer nights,
Neatly ledgered by almanacs.
Of prayers can’t prolong summer: Fall blights
And the north winds preaches, as it bites,
Of a snow-covered wolf pack slinking nearer
Until the bad manners burst. (Impolite’s
Uttering, with a mouth full of flakes.)
Lakes of new ice are dusted white by gusts
Of arctic malice, as winter wolves howl,
But life goes on.
                                 I abstain from my lusts
For summer-breasted days like a spooked owl,
For, though driving in snow’s straight from hell’s pit,
The unlicensed children aren’t bothered a bit.

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We got four inches Saturday night and four more today (Tuesday). No big deal, except it made a lot of work for me. I like work, when it is writing, and all other forms of work…well…I try to keep them at a minimum.

Running a Childcare involves keeping a parking lot clear of snow, (and clearing the walls of snow the town plows heap into the lot’s entrance and exit). Four inches is usually no big deal, as I have a snow-blower with a thirty-inch mouth, and I bothered to make sure it was running well, before the first storm hit. Usually, especially when the snow is a fluff of powder like the first storm’s was, I can jog behind the contraption with it set in sixth gear. And that is how things started out. But then the contraption spoke a word slowly in a deepening voice, and word was “Below.” After that it refused to run, despite all my mechanical knowledge (which you could fit in a thimble.) I then made a phone call to a local small-engine-repair genius, only to discover he was out of business (thanks to a former president I will not glorify with a name.)

This meant I had to resort to a primitive implement called a “snow shovel.”  Don’t laugh. I know most modern and civilized citizens think such objects are merely a matter of lore, but in my youth I was highly skilled at using them. At age 64 I have discovered knowing is not the same as doing. I get on fairly well, performing the ancient art of shoveling, for a rather short period of time, before I discover shovels are downright comfortable things to lean against, and clouds and stars are well worth observing.

I’d likely have the job done by April, but fortunately a couple of young whippersnappers were around (my youngest son and my son-in-law) and they were in the mood to humiliate elders they ought to honor. For every square foot I cleared in my pottering manner they cleared ten, a bit like tornadoes. In any case, the job was done with surprising speed, and I likely deserve carbon-credits and praise from believers in Global Warming for not utilizing fossil fuel….but don’t hold your breath….because they say I count as a fossil.

And that is just the snow-created work involved in my Childcare’s  parking lot. At my Childcare itself there is also a major change in how you deal with the active minds of children, once snow falls. (Some call this “curriculum”, which seems a bit absurd, when you are talking about four-year-olds.) They had great fun raking leaves and jumping in leaf piles, but the first snow means you have to put away the rakes and take out the sleds. But this means I have to remember where the heck I stuffed the sleds, in the barn, last April.

Lastly there is something called “rescheduling” that snow causes. School gets cancelled, for piddling amounts of snow, but parents still have to work, especially during the “Christmas rush”. Therefore all the parents of school-aged children, who ordinarily are only at my Childcare until the school-bus comes in the morning, and after the bus drops them off in the afternoon, become parents who beg and plead that we allow them to work, by watching their school-aged children all day long. Fortunately, the people who govern the Childcare of New Hampshire allow you break the legal limit, in terms of how many children you are allowed to shelter, in the case of an “emergency”. However this does not make it easier for my staff, who ordinarily see the older children depart before the younger children arrive, and the younger children depart before the older children explode off the school-bus in the afternoon. To have all these children at the same place at the same time is like mixing oil with water and expecting salad dressing.

Over the past decade I, and especially my wife, have gotten good at handling the chaos caused by cancelled school. However it made (and makes) me think. Ordinarily, by law, we each are allowed to handle six children under six-years-old, and, if we are two handling twelve, we are also allowed to handle five more children over six-years-old, for a grand total of seventeen. When school was cancelled we’d handle more, perhaps as many as twenty-five. This makes me think, because in the public school it is quite normal for a lone teacher to be expected to walk into a classroom and handle twenty-six, (not just in an emergency, but on a daily basis).

Obviously a double-standard is involved. The politicians and “teacher’s union” have enacted laws to keep me from getting rich. If I was allowed to watch 26, and my wife was allowed to watch 26, do you have any idea of how much money my Childcare could make?

We’d also would be dead by now. I have no idea how public school teachers keep their sanity. Furthermore, ex-Public-School-teachers, who have worked at my Childcare, inform me my place is heaven, compared to Public Schools. It is a real joy for them to actually focus on individual children, because they only have six, rather than being asked to govern a stampeding herd of twenty-six.

Former teachers  demonstrate amazing abilities, developed during their time in  Public Schools. Ordinarily, when one child has a “crisis” that demands the attention of a member of my staff, that employee deals with that child, and I am left in charge of the remaining eleven. I am then challenged, and feel tested, keeping control only eleven. But what if a child was having a “melt-down” in a Public school, and I was all alone with twenty six? (I’d be fired the first day, for re-instituting corporeal punishment; that’s what.) When I watch former Public School teachers deal with a group’s escalating enthusiasm at my Childcare, I feel a sense of awe. They seem far less challenged than I am, as if they thought, “Only eleven children? Piece of Cake.”

Don’t take this wrongly. I am in awe of the Public School teachers, not the Public Schools. (And as far as the “teachers union” is concerned, I think they are out to kill teachers, for they have insisted upon the awful working conditions teachers endure.)

In conclusion, snow creates a chaos at my Childcare slightly like the everyday situation at a Public School: IE;  We have what seems like too many children, without a truly clear routine. Where a Public School may welcome the time-off of a snow-day’s cancellation of school, it doesn’t cancel anything for me; it doubles my trouble.

But isn’t that typical, for winter? Winter doubles your trouble. Snow is stuff that just means where you once could walk you now must wade. Snow only means more work…..or does it?

When I look at nature, I seem to see most animals dislike winter. Few animals don’t take steps to avoid the season altogether. Birds and butterflies migrate, or hibernate like bears and woodchucks. The landscape can seem lifeless. But I like to take the children out to look for life in winter.

These are images from the only open water remaining on the flood control reservoir abutting my Childcare. My youngest son, after helping me with shoveling, took these pictures of a mink, fishing by the outlet to that reservoir.  (To get the pictures he crept up and hid behind the concrete outlet, and then poked the camera around the corner without revealing more than his hand.) Mink are less adapted to water than otters, but my son said this mink was only under the ice ten seconds before popping up with the sunfish.

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Winter doesn’t stop life. Life goes on.

(Mink photo credits: Israel Shaw)