LOCAL VIEW –Some Pity, Please–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some body some body
Ask me to stay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LOCAL VIEW –Is there life after Football?–

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(Video credit NFL and Fox News.)

The Monday morning after the Superbowl the parents dropped off their kids at our Farm-childcare looking haggard, and no, I’m not from Atlanta. New England fans were seemingly in a state of serious shock, as not even they expected the come-back they had witnessed. In a dazed way, with stunned expressions, they were replaying the entire game over and over, like the above clip.

In a reply to a friend I gave my view:

“I’ve heard a lot of Monday-morning-quarterbacks say what Atlanta “should have done”, but such 20-20 hindsight is not there, in the heat of the moment. I think a sort of “fog of war” sets in during an actual game, and that is where Belichick is best, because he makes the right choices during crazy-time, when you are not given time to think. Belichick likely would have burned up the clock and run the ball, if in Atlanta’s shoes, but Atlanta was seemingly stuck in the habit of using what had worked before, thinking it would continue to work. It didn’t. They didn’t adjust but Belichick had adjusted. (One of my favorite camera shots was of Belichick jotting notes in a old-fashioned notebook with an old-fashioned pen; [he smashed his newfangled tablet-computer in the middle of a game, two months ago]; he looked as detached as a coach jotting notes in a practice session. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a peek at that notebook?)

Atlanta’s defense was utterly exhausted (or “gassed”, as the player’s say), by the end, as the Patriots had that defense on the field for 40:31 and they were off the field for only 23:27. I don’t think this is an “accident of fate”, because when Belicheck was defensive coordinator of the Giants, and they were up against the high powered offence of Kelly and the Buffalo Bills during the 1990 Superbowl, the Bill’s defense was on the field over 40 minutes. Can it be that Belichick actually plans that, if the opponent is going to score, they will do so swiftly, and their defense will get no rest before it is back on the field?

At the end of the game it looked like Atlanta was still in that “score fast” mode, because it had been easy earlier. They were lured into using the obsolete.

Sort of a strategy similar to “rope-a-dope.”

This sort of post-game analysis, back in my boyhood, was called “the hot stove league”, and was mostly about baseball when there was no baseball to be played due to deep snow, and old geezers were looking forward to the next baseball season, during New England’s interminable winters. Such blather was conducted around hot wood stoves, often in small stores or at the local post office, and likely drove some wive’s mad, as they likely felt husbands could be making better use of their time, (even as some husbands felt their wive’s could cut their phone-calls short.) In any case, since those long-ago days football has stepped in, during December and January at least, and usurped the position of baseball.

The approval or disapproval of spouses does not matter as much as the approval of God, and violent sports like football make me a bit nervous. A person, who I respect greatly, once informed me God really enjoys the sport of cricket. However, once the violence of football is over, I think God likely approves of people sitting about talking about what they have witnessed. Why?

I suppose it is because it is good to appreciate the efforts of others.

I’ve worked well over a hundred different jobs in my time, and you’d be amazed how often the work goes completely unappreciated. For example, next time you hold a bottle of ketchup, look at the label. I was the guy making such labels for ketchup, (and a hundred other bottled things), for all of two weeks one winter. (Yes, I got fired.) It was a horrible, miserable job, for minimum wage, and required a sort of heroism on my part to endure it, (and required heroism on the part of my wife to endure me), but, were there any cheering crowds as I (and my wife) heroically managed to scrape together the funds to feed my children?  Nooooooo….

Look around yourself. You are surrounded by things you take for granted, made possible by people you fail to appreciate. The lights you click on, the toilets you flush, the bread and the butter you eat, all involve toiling people you take for granted. If we had the slightest idea of how beholden we are to others we’d be flush with thankfulness, and far more loving than we actually are. But the thing of it is, we ourselves are too darn busy toiling to appreciate the toil of others, and, if we lift eyes from toil to think at all, it is of how we are the ones who deserves more credit. We are all too often too busy playing the wailing violins of our own self pity. We are as dependent on others as oldsters in  wheelchairs, crabbing that the ride is too rough.

Considering this unflattering portrait is how God likely sees us, I imagine he likes how we become utterly and amazingly different, regarding sports. Suddenly we appreciate the smallest details of other’s efforts. We see the nuances, the quick reactions, and the uncanny element of luck.

The exact same things we obsess about on football fields occur in our own lives. When the cook at our local diner cracks open a bad egg in the middle of the morning rush, it involves all the swift shifts of an athlete in a sporting event. There may be no cheering, and in fact there may be some grousing because orders are temporarily filled more slowly, but the swift recovery rivals the efforts of an athlete. There may be fewer tips, down here in earth, but up in heaven the angels are cheering wildly for the cook.

Remember that, when you next trudge through the drudgery of your day, largely unappreciated. Even if you don’t believe in angels, if you imagine that you are doing your unseen deeds in a stadium, with millions of cheering spectators watching, it has a way of making you, if not feel better, perform better.

As a young artist I used to trick myself in this manner all the time. I might be washing dishes in some slummy dive, but I figured a million were watching me. How?  Well, I figured it was only a matter of weeks before I’d be “discovered”, and my poems would sell a million copies, and all of a sudden many, many fans would want to know about my past life. Therefore, as I washed dishes, a million fans were watching me. And I tell you, few have ever washed dishes as I did, with such flair and pizzazz, flipping plates like pancakes and singing odd opera. (If nothing else, it made a dull job far more fun, and made me a fun fellow to work with.)

In the case of the Superbowl, there actually are millions watching, and appreciating every move, not only during the event, but afterwards. In some cases the efforts are appreciated decades afterwards. The nuances of fate, uncovered and discovered long afterwards, are all the more fascinating when the internet allows the “hot stove league” to involve a heck of a lot more people than, in the old days, you could fit in a post office or hardware store.

For example, regarding the Superbowl of a few days ago, I heard, during discussion of Belichick in the 1990 Superbowl which pitted the Giants against the Bills, that Belichick was the defensive coordinator, but the offence wide-receiver coach was  Tom Coughlin, who later became the head coach of the New York Giants, and is the only coach to ever defeat Belichick in a Superbowl (twice).

The fact that the coach of that 1990 New York Giants team, Bill Parcells, was able to recognize the genius of two young assistant coaches, could be the subject of a long, long article in a sports-section written by sports fanatics for sports fanatics. Me? I’ll cut things short, and just say Bill Parcells, when at the height of his powers, was able to do the thing this post is about:  Appreciate.

One thing I appreciate about modern times is what I spoke of before: The “hot stove league” has become enormous. One thing I investigated, on my computer, was “fan reaction”. You likely could spend hours just watching video of fans experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and in some cases it is hard to tell the difference. New England fans collapse to the floor sobbing in victory, as Altlanta fans go insane with hysterical laughter.

Then you can likely spend days watching the “experts”, both on high-powered network sites and on small-time individual sites, indulge in post-game analysis, reexamining every play in minute detail.

The first is emotion and the second is intellect, but both appreciate.

Me?  I must be getting old, for I don’t care so much about winning as I used to. I’m more interested in the sport than who wins, and also sometimes more interested in the fans than the players.

Because I run a Farm-childcare, some of the fans I deal with are very young. The children who are under five could care less about sports, but around age five kids become fans, in a very unrealistic, dreamy way. For example, they think their Dad could outrun any player in the NFL. There is no cotton-picking way I am going to disillusion them. However they also seem to think I myself am nearly as amazing as their Dad, and that I myself could also play in the NFL, and I need to find some gentle way of disillusioning them.

In the world of Childcare and so-called Childcare Professionals, 97% of the people children meet are women. Therefore, as a male, I need only to walk in the door and I am immediately as welcome as a rock star. Because, even in nature, baby gorillas want to romp with a mean-looking daddy gorilla, if I so much as stoop to tie a child’s shoe I may get blind-sided by a kid who wants to tackle a daddy, for I am a temporary father-figure, and romping with daddy is natural. If I crouch down on creaking 63-year-old knees to help a kid with a puzzle, it is not unusual to immediately feel two or three kids climbing on my back. I feel like a quarterback in a blitz, and Freud would likely be cross-eyed about the physical contact involved. But, because I am hale and hearty for my age, I arise undamaged by the attention, and the children think I am a NFL star.

Over the years I’ve developed a way of entertaining children’s hero-worship, while deflating it with a dose of reality. For example, I may say that Tolkien stated certain trees are “Ents,” and that a maple over there used to stand over here, and that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Dad. Then the child returns to tell me, “My Dad says there is no such thing as walking trees!” I figures this teaches them to double check their teachers, and also to go to their fathers for advice.

By the time a child goes to kindergarten at age five they have learned to laugh at some of my tall tales. For example, I tell them, “Me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, and, back when we went to school, school buses hadn’t been invented, and me and George had to ride to school on the back of a yellow dinosaur.” I always add that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Mom and Dad. I figure that, if nothing else, parents get a laugh.

It was in this spirit that my most recent tall tale involved Belichick using me, as number 99, on his kick-off team, in the upcoming Superbowl. I told the kids to look for the old 63-year-old guy with the gray beard sticking out from his helmet, running down the field. For some reason not a child doubted this was possible. After all, it is their experience that they can’t tackle me, so how could they know I’d be less in a Superbowl?

I waited expectantly for a laughing parent to tell me his child had asked if I was going to be in the Superbowl, but life got hectic, and it never happened.

After the Superbowl the parents were arriving late, so utterly drained by the unbelievable game they we in no condition to drive, let alone go to work, so I did not bring up the subject of whether or not I played in the Superbowl. But, with the kids, I asked, “So, did you see me?”

I let on that it “might” have been in the third quarter that the genius of Belichick had me out there on the field, gray beard sticking out from my helmet, as a “trick play”, and that I was so upsetting to the Atlanta Falcons that they couldn’t score again, adding, “If you don’t believe me, ask your father.”

I’m still awaiting feedback, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. My aim is to make the parents enjoy a good laugh.

On a more serious note, I’d like to remind people that, as incredible and superb as the athletes in the Superbowl are, (and they are superb beyond belief), they are but adults playing a child’s game. The adult game adults play is far more serious, and the players deserve far more appreciation. And if you do not believe me, ask the “Father” who is not your physical father, but the One called the “Truth”.

LOCAL VIEW –Cutting Back Blogging–

I’ve been having a blast just wandering about the web. I never know what I’ll find or where I’ll wind up. Yesterday was a good example. I started off to research sea-ice and wound up posting about a famous British actress getting sprayed by manure as she cooked muffins out in a pasture. It seemed like the subject of a dream, but was real.

However enough is enough. I’m turning into some sort of webaholic. May is a very busy time at my Farm-childcare, with all sorts of things to plant, and I need to simply turn the computer off.

Therefore I am going to shorten my posts. I’ll post things like the prior post about frost in Brazil, that I can write in between the time insomnia boots me from bed, and the sun comes up. After that the computer screen will be dark and silent.

This feels like fasting. It seems like it may turn out to be harder than I imagine. I may have withdrawal symptoms. Who would have ever imagined, twenty years ago, such an web-addiction was even possible?

But, although new beginnings can be sweet when they are springtime, they are grim when they are Mondays, and a man must be a man. Enough is enough.

Like some snowflake bragging of its bangled
Originality before the beaming sun,
Some strutting cock whose doodle is strangled
Because he saw no fox nor need to run,
I face the dawn. Lord let me please shut up.
I’m sick of my brain’s wit, wit, wit, wit, wit.
For once let me be silent, for the cup
Cannot be sipped when talking about it.
If I talk while swallowing I will choke
Or else I’m a ventriloquist’s dummy,
But my brain keeps making joke after joke
Before the King. A jester too chummy
For his own good may wind up beheaded
Which will make my silence be the sort I’ve dreaded.

LOCAL VIEW –To Step on a Nail–

I have a friend who insists we don’t need to clean up our act before we die, because we have been cleaning up after our children all our lives, and turn-about is fair play. We can therefore feel right about leaving our children a house full of rubbish, for them to clean up.

To a certain degree I agree. After all, when I was young I was spoiled, and didn’t have to do my own laundry, or make my own bed, but that is long, long time ago, and it seems I have had to spend a disproportionate amount of time paying back for that born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-my-mouth luxury.

The luxury of my childhood made me see how lovely life could be, which is a prerequisite of poetry. However another prerequisite of poetry seems to be that you spend a fair amount of time afterwards as a dishwasher. Others eat high on the hog and dirty the dishes, but you just clean up the mess.

Others ride the high horses, but you clean the stables.

Others eat the pickled herring from fancy jars, as you clean the guts and gurry in the cannery.

Others sniff the roses, but you are the gardener with hands bleeding from thorns.

And on and on it goes, year after year, until at age 63 I am running a Farm-childcare, as a so-called “Childcare Professional”. My wife gets irked when I say that job-title is a bunch of bosh, and I’m just a “babysitter”. Others work the fine jobs, as I change the diapers. Others spoil the children, and I deal with the tantrums. Basically it is a matter of cleaning up other people’s shit.

Some people are so irresponsible they basically poop in their own pants, in a thousand symbolic ways, and it is the duty of poets to clean up the filthy mess.

I’m sorry if that seems too crude and too blunt, but it seems a reality that young writers should be aware of. Too often young poets think they’ll spend all their entire life traipsing about rose gardens telling people how exquisite the blossoms smell. I have to sadly inform them that the only poets who succeed in remaining in rose gardens either have given up on writing, and are experts in rose genetics and cultivation, or else they are the gigolos of rich old ladies.

The real garden of real poetry involves less lovely smells. You sniff dish-washing soap, and diapers, and stables, and canneries, and the fumes of factories, but you work with the salt of the earth, and you learn where real beauty is found. You have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues.

It is ironic in a way that the rich and powerful think they are controlling things, when they can’t even cook their own meals, wash their own dishes or laundry, or grow their own food or roses. In some cases, when they get old and decrepit, they even revert to diapers, and need someone to change those as well. In essence the rich and powerful are hapless and pathetic, but they like to think they have power over those they depend on, and have this word, “delegate”, that makes their dependence look like power.

In a better world those in the position to delegate work to others would be aware they are dependents. They would be full of gratitude and there would be none of this nonsense of some thinking they are so high and mighty. However, as heaven is not coming to earth (so far this week), the basic fact of the matter is that those who are the salt of the earth are in essence crucified. Real poets are included in this crucified crew.

Of course none is crucified to the degree the Christ was, but, to a lesser degree, in this fallen world, any good worker must put up with some degree of crucifixion. I know this is a sad truth to state to young poets who know how glorious and poetic life might be, “if only”, but “if only” is not the current state of affairs, and therefore the only alternative to some degree of crucifixion, and to singing the blues,  is to join those fat-cats who are fallen, but think they are high and mighty. Only fools want that.

I think it is far more high and mighty to change diapers. I’ve got a bumper sticker that states, “Men who change diapers change the world.”

I am pretty arrogant, I suppose, when I think I am superior to my superiors, but the fact of the matter is that history bears me out.

One of the greatest masters of music of the past was Bach, and he is remembered far more than any of the fat-cats he wrote his music for. In fact no one would remember  Brandenburg, if it weren’t for Bach. Yet, in his time, Bach was just a servant, even to the degree where he wore the same uniform as a butler.

Servants should take pride in the fact their pride is treated like a doormat. If Vanity is ugly, then the humble are beautiful, and therefore, if poets love beauty, they should love being dishwashers.

I should confess I hated washing dishes, at first.  But time has taught me that the very music of poetry is based upon giving others a gift they may not deserve, but need. Some times, washing dishes is the poetry, because it is needed, though the messy do not deserve it.

Therefore I recently concluded that, when I die, I didn’t want to leave my children an unholy mess to clean up, such as my father left me. Not that it wasn’t fun to sort through his mess and fill big dumpsters with trash, because I made thousands with other stuff on E bay. However that took hours upon hours, and I think my own kids have better things to do, and might prefer to skip that bother.

Therefore I decided to be noble, and clean up my trash before I die. I waited until the “Red Flag Warning” (caused by a local drought) was lifted, and then had a big fire.

Into the fire went all sorts of lumber which I hadn’t thrown away, because I “might” be able to use it, however I had never gotten around to those dream-projects. In fact some lumber had sat around waiting for so long that, even if I had gotten around to the project, the lumber would have been too rotted. However other lumber still might have been used, for such projects, but recent cancer confronted me with how brief my remaining time may be, and how unlikely it is I’ll ever do what I dream, and I understood saving such old lumber was a fool’s fond hope. I was making the farm much more tidy, by burning all the hopes that will not be.

Burning some of the hopes was a bit of a crucifixion for me personally, but I figured it would spare my children the crucifixion of cleaning up a dead parent’s mess, when I die. All in all, it seemed to be a way of making life more heavenly.  I even developed a sense of humor, and decided there was a delicious irony in the fact that, after cleaning up after others for so many years, I was cleaning up after myself. The last thing I imagined was that such cleanliness would increase my personal sense of crucifixion. In fact I felt vain, which always seems to all but beg for some sort of nail to come along and puncture my fat ego.

The crucifixion that then occurred didn’t involve anything as dramatic as stigmata on my palms.  Instead I just stepped on a nail, while burning a pile of old lumber. It was a beauty of an old, rusty spike, that sliced right through my boot’s sole and dove into the ball of my foot so deeply it was difficult to remove, despite the pain.

Oh, the irony! But that is what fuels poetry.

I’m not sure what it is about an old farm
That demands one has to, once every year,
Step down hard on a nail. All of the charm
Of rural life evaporates, yet, queer
As it may sound, the time you must then spend
Limping in pain reminds you that walking’s a gift.
After all, walking’s something that we tend
To take for granted. Our thighs and calves uplift
As humble feet deal with dirt. Our minds pretend
They’re high above such earthy cares, until
A nail spikes through our rubber sole, and we
Are forced to walk funny. Then pain’s our thrill,
Our focus, our consciousness, and our glee
Is when it stops. How we define mirth
Is bossed by one nail that brings us to earth.

When one nail can change things, life becomes simplified. Certain things are stricken from the daily schedule, and you attend to more boring things, which become poetic.  For example, how to identify the hawk that insists on screeching at you from limbs, but never stands still for a close up? Is this poetic?

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My son insists it is a broad winged hawk, but I don’t know, as I limp about. It is just a screeching creature, that refuses to stand still for a zoomed in close-up. But that is not my job. My job is to attend to children, and to zoom in on them…..To forbid war-like things like video games and toy guns, and to teach them to be gentle young poets. But when I zoom in on them, what are they making of sticks, and what sort of respect are they showing me?

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(Sometimes I get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.)  I suppose some will suggest I should make sticks be illegal, but the sniper in a small boy somehow reminds me of young poets. Authority holds no glamour, and they think they can improve upon it.

I try to be big about getting assassinated from all sides by small boys in their make-believe worlds. (After all, on other days they treat me like a rock star.). However the violins of self-pity get going, after you have stepped on a nail. Walking hurts, hawks screech at you, and small boys snipe. Where is the justice!!!???

Even the pussy willows have gone by, before I could pick them and plunge them in glycerin and freeze them in suspended animation. If I’d done that I could have made a few extra bucks, selling them to flower shops. But, even though the spring is retarded and nothing else wants to bloom, the pussy willows jumped ahead. They are no longer the furry gray buds that flower shops pay for. The cat’s-fur gray is gone, and instead they look like this:

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Hmm!  Not half bad!  Maybe the folk who shop in flower shops don’t know what they are missing.

Maybe the parents who don’t know their sons are snipers don’t know what they’re missing.

Maybe people who are never screamed at by hawks don’t know what they’re missing.

Maybe I’m lucky to step on a nail and limp around afterwards.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Daring the Frost–

I should be a sort of poster-child farmer for Global Warming this spring, for I’ve never had my peas up so early. Usually you “plant peas on Patriots Day” (April 19) but this year mine were up and growing by then. (Don’t complain that the rows are not straight. When you run a Farm-childcare, rows are never straight.)

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Having my peas up this early (for this far north; I’m sure people in Virginia are laughing at my vanity),  doesn’t actually mean I’m smart. I’ve just been lucky. I got them in and they likely had sprouted roots, but had not stuck their heads up above the soil, when we got this:

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What’s more, we got temperatures down in the single digits, (below -12.2° Celsius), and if my peas had emerged, they would not have just been discouraged. Though peas are tough, they’d be dead, dead, dead. All my work would have been wasted, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I’d be singing the blues, but that didn’t happen, so instead I’m smug, smug, smug.

Actually I threaded the needle, and the timing of planting those peas was timed perfectly. In truth you can either say I was lucky, or “to God goes the glory”,  but I so seldom have a chance to swagger that I prefer to think I did it all myself. After years of bungling and doing everything wrong, I have been so trained by misfortune that I’ve started doing things right, as a sort of intuitive reflex (which gets me off the hook of having to intellectually explain my success to scientists.)

Like a gambler “on a roll” I’ve decided to go with my instinct, and am planting other things a little early. I had to look hard to get my onions in, as they hadn’t even appeared in some stores, and in like manner I also got carrots, bulb-fennel, beets, turnips and lettuce planted this weekend.  (I might have planted potatoes, but at the hardware store they hadn’t brought them up to the showroom from the back warehouse.)

This could all be a complete disaster. This far north we can get frosts right into May. In fact, (to discredit Global Warming), we even had a frost on May 29 last spring. However I know how to handle such calamities. You wet everything down in the evening, (as it is harder to freeze wet things), (due to latent heat involved in the phase change, for you scientists), and then you put all your grass from mowing the lawn over the plants, but in a fluffy and thin manner (because the heat generated by wet hay can kill plants, if it is too thick).

The old-timers couldn’t be bothered planting early. They might plant a few things like peas on Patriots Day, but then they kicked back and waited until Memorial Day (May 31) to plant most everything else. Even though beets and carrots and turnips are hardy, and can stand a slight frost, old-timers had seen a few, late killing frosts. It wasn’t worth all the effort of planting a second time, or else rushing about wetting things down and fluffing grass over them. Why? because if you plant on April 24 your carrots take forever to sprout and then grow very slowly. Quite often, though you planted them five weeks ahead of Memorial Day, they have grown only to a height that plants planted after Memorial Day achieve in ten days. By July you can hardly tell the rows apart.  So why bother?

I suppose I bother because I seems to get slower as I get older. My garden is pretty big, and I can’t put the whole thing in on Memorial Day any more. So I pace myself, and do the same amount of work planting over weeks. In other words, I’m just as lazy as the old-timers.

Also, when you get to my age there’s not much you can do that is all that exciting. (Let’s skip the subject of sex.) (Also my finances.) Maybe I’ll drive forty when the speed limit is thirty-five, but the police officer just yawns as I speed by in my old, puttering pickup truck. Where’s the fun in that?

Therefore living-on-the-edge, for me, is to plant too early, but to get away with it.

Wisdom’s just a chance to show you’ve learned
From all you’re bungling, and to demonstrate
Old dogs aren’t dumb. Oh sure, we still get burned,
But flinch less. We’ve seen it’s never too late
To get things right. Although all of the clocks
Say time’s running out, we drive more slowly
Than frantic youngsters. The school of hard knocks
Has shown us speed kills, but the dawdler sees
The sunrises and smells the sweet bacon.
Do old dogs waste their time chasing their tails?
No, for they once bit their tail. Forsaking
The truth they learned would mean old dogs lie.
They don’t. So, if you’ve got things to fix,
Heed the old dogs. Don’t teach them new tricks.

P.S. (For Young Poets)

Yes, it is most definitely true that the young know more about computers and cell phones, but one big solar flare might set all that technology back on its heels, and make it difficult to even start a car. At that point an old geezer with a garden might suddenly seem to have values that are more lasting.

Not that it is wrong for young poets to spend time chasing their tails. It seems to be part of the process.

One way I chased-my-tail when in my late twenties was to be so determined to write that I did so even when I should have been living life, (and thus learning things worth writing about). My writing seemed to just get worse and worse. The worse it got the harder I tried, until I recall being on my knees and pounding the floor, shouting “I will write!  I will write!”

Then, exhausted, I made a liar of myself, for rather than writing I read, and what I happened to be reading was Huxley’s novel, “Antic Hay”, and I happened to get to the part where he has a character acting very much as I just had, pounding the carpet and fiercely insisting he would write.

This made me feel I wasn’t all that special, and was behaving like a character in a comic novel. So I got a job. It didn’t last, so I got another. And another. And another.

I’ve never sat down and counted the number of different jobs I’ve held, but it is over a hundred. Often they felt like they would ruin my ability to write. They never did. They enhanced it.

Eventually you wind up an old dog who knows lots of tricks. Keep the faith.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Details, details…–

Spring can get to be an overwhelming time on even a toy farm like mine. You can’t ask anything or anyone to wait. The Time to Plant is the Time to Plant, and you can’t tell it to wait.

Even if you do plant on time, there are all sorts of things that can mess up your plans. Late frosts, hail, plauges of locusts, fat groundhogs, annoying environmentalists and the EPA may descend and cut down your seedlings. However you will not even have seedlings to be cut down, if you tell the Time to Plant to wait.

You have a chance, and you had better not blow it.

Of course, as a writer, I am always begging for mercy. It may be Time to Plant, but please, please, please give me Time to Write.

There is such a beauty in the Time to Plant, that someone should write about it. Someone should sing a song of praise. Someone should pen a sonnet. Someone should shout thanks up to the top of the blue sky. However it has been my experience that, if you actually do take the time to pen poems, you wind up forgetting to actually plant, because you are too busy thinking up rhymes for “forsythia”.  Next thing you know, it is another time.  It is Time To Pay The Bill Collector. He wants your harvest, and he seldom accepts payment in poems. If you haven’t gotten around to planting anything, then facing the bill collector becomes one of life’s darkest moments.

“But surely”, you naively ask me, “If you sing a psalm like King David, you are offering flowers to your Creator, and His benefit must be clear.”  Alas, I tell you, offering flowers doesn’t always make one a hit.

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Therefore, as I am old and wise, I have learned I had better damn well take care of God’s business before getting around to praising God. I’m sure this seems a very pedantic and pragmatic thing for a poet to say, but, if the Time to Plant is worthy of praise, it is also worthy of enacting.

For, if you really want to see the beauty of planting, and really want to be remotely considered an authority on the subject, shouldn’t you actually plant?

And, if that means you have less time to write, so be it. It will make you a better singer and poet, in the long run.

Not that I don’t pity my fellow poets. We are not appreciated and helped, in a materialistic society.  And there surely will come times that it is true that

Every poet always wishes
That his muses did the dishes

However it is the poets that wind up dishwashers, doing lots of dishes that are not their own. It is part of the process. You need to get down and dirty and plant. In order to write poetry you need to know “you got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues”, and you cannot harvest without facing a Time to Plant.

 

Therefore I will have little time for posting. If I was more pragmatic than I am, I’d close down this site for a couple months. However, as I own an impractical side that bill collectors don’t like, I think I’ll opt for very short posts.

Today’s post would be, “Planted some onion and garlic sets. The peas are already sprouting, though most years they wouldn’t yet be planted.”

Then there would be a bit of Haiku, and perhaps a photo of onion and garlic sets.

However, because this is a longer post, I’ll post a longer sonnet.

It is strange how some demand I prove
What only happens once. They cry, “Replicate!”
I bow to their science. And I remove
Once-in-a-lifetime love, and then I wait.

You see, the Red Sea parted only once.
To replicate that is asking too much.
By asking too much some wind up the Dunce,
And rather than wise they wind up out of touch.

What is touching? What has moved your heart?
What honeymoon made the child that you spoil?
Can you replicate that? Can you even start
To explain the illogic which science will foil?

Science wants logic. Does it want hate?
Or does it want love? I still sit and wait.

LOCAL VIEW –Wet As It Gets–

A quarter century ago I was the landscaper for a collection of old ladies my wife referred to as “your harem”, and though they are long gone they have left memories scattered about my yard. Below is an early bloomer one lady gave my wife, that she referred to as “miniature marsh marigold”.  Wet 4 IMG_2449

Actually it turns out to be an invasive species, Lesser celandine, (Ficaria Verna), and belongs over in England. Wordsworth wrote a poem about it (“To The Small Celandine”) with this stanza:

Ere a leaf is on a bush,
In the time before the Thrush
Has a thought about it’s nest,
Thou wilt come with half a call,
Spreading out thy glossy breast
Like a careless Prodigal;
Telling tales about the sun,
When we’ve little warmth, or none.

Actually I should scold that old lady for giving us a plant which is currently invading the back lawn and killing the grass. It only lasts until June, and then withers up and leaves a dead-looking place. But I’d rather smile, and remember how that silver-haired hunchback would come out with a cup of tea for me and involve me in discussions about poetry, as I weeded. I figured poetry-talk was an extra benefit of having me as her landscaper. I could chatter as I worked, and it even excused me for the time I stopped working, to sip some tea with dirty hands. Not that she’d ever just fork out the bucks that would have let me skip the weeding, and just write. But I forgave her for that. I think young poets get over that resentment once they are over thirty, and I was pushing forty, though working for old ladies made me feel a lot younger.

In April I’d go from being on the verge of bankruptcy to having too much work, from being disdained to being hugely popular. The old ladies would become wildly ambitious with the first hints of warm weather, and I often had to act like the sage, old man, reining them back. The worst year was 1990, when we had a record-setting, early-April hot spell with temperatures up over 90° F, and my elderly customers felt like putting out tomato plants. I warned them it could snow the following week, and when it did snow I looked very wise.

This year it wasn’t so hot, as it only got up to 77° on April 1st, but the following cold did set records, as it only could get up to 26° during the snow on April 4, and had dropped to 4° on the morning of April 5. (Concord, New Hampshire; official NOAA statistics.)

A 73° swing in temperatures is very hard on plants, especially plants from western Europe, because the Atlantic protects Europe from most arctic blasts. One European plant (nearly invasive, though few call it that,)  that got hit hard last week was the daffodils. They are designed to spring up before the trees have put out their foliage, in sunny places that will turn into shady places as the trees leaf out, and, because they come out so early, they’ve been created to withstand frost, and even a moderate freeze, but the extreme freeze they were hit by in New Hampshire this year was like nothing their ancestors ever experienced on the shores of the Mediterranean. It seemed to rupture whatever holds them up, at the bottoms of their stems, and they all fell face down. Some that were buds still had enough remaining capillaries to bloom, but they lack charm when their blooms kiss the dirt. Wet 3 IMG_2455

Some others look like their buds are going to simply turn brown, and not bloom. Having such dismal failure follow high hopes was a significant setback to manic, maypole moods.

Old-timers like myself anticipated a second setback would be the cold rain that always comes, as the warm weather tries to push back north. There have been years when the maps show warm fronts up to New Jersey, and even up into Massachusetts, that never quite make it this far north. One needs to make a study of cold-loving plants, if one wants to start a garden, and the old-timers tended to just chuckle at the “flatlanders” who came up to New Hampshire and wanted to get going in their gardens before Memorial Day.  Many old-timers would make a day of putting their garden in on May 31, in one big rush, and by July their gardens were doing as well as the gardens of people who hurried things in April and early May. (In fact some warmth-loving plants like peppers seem to sulk if chilled, and never do all that well, if put out too early.)

When the warm fronts stalls south of us, all we get is a cold rain. Because my Farm-childcare focuses on the outdoors, we are not stopped by the slighter rains and mists. One thing I have found enchants the children is to follow a stonewall through the damp woods, looking for signs of life.

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Besides the lichens and mosses, it has seemed the local plants have more sense than the European imports, and are holding back. Even the swamp maples only raspberry-misted the tips of their silver branches with swelling buds during the mold spell, but didn’t burst into full bloom. Down in the swamps skunk cabbage is blooming, but that is an uncanny species that creates warmth, and can actually melt its way up through ice. All in all there is a sense everything is about to explode, but is not quite there yet. Of course, this doesn’t keep the exploration from being fun.

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And then, at long last, the pussy willow (Salix Discolor)  bloomed. An older girl noted them at the very end of a day, and I immediately had my next day all planned out. Wet 7 FullSizeRender

However the slighter rains gave way to not so slight rains.

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When all the world is getting drenched, we don’t go out more than we have to. It is not so much that the children mind getting drenched, as it is they tire of being drenched fairly swiftly, and then it becomes a major project drying all their cloths for the next adventure.

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In every rain there are times when the downpour slacks off, and you can go for short walks before rushing back, when the rain starts up again. The pussy willows were too far away for such a walk, but I like to take the kids out and show them how every drop on every twig has an upside-down world within it, with the sky at the bottom. Its something most people walk by all the time and never notice, but you don’t have to go far from shelter to see it.

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And just because it is likely wise to avoid drenching children, hunting pussy willows, it does not mean I can’t drench myself.

April’s cruel teasing has made the blooms bow
Face down in the mud, and the peeping frogs
Have gone silent, but time has taught me how
To tread a stream-side’s sedge and rotted logs,
Wading through a wet day with hopeful eyes
Seeking the gray, silver-fox fur of buds
Among the jewels of a hanging surprise
On every twig. On every twig the mud’s up
And the sky’s down as clear drops magnify
A topsy-turvy world, each drop dark-topped
And silver-bottomed, and, as I press by,
All drenching me until my joy’s unstopped
And I decide it’s not such a bad life
If I gather pussy willows for my wife.

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