ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Arctic Africa–

One thing I have learned from Alarmists is the effectiveness of distraction. When you have completely blown a forecast, it is helpful to point at something happening far, far away.

Therefore you will not notice that I am six days away from the date I assigned for the jet stream to stop being loopy. You will forget I stated the polar flow would become zonal on February 13, due to the lagged effect of the La Nina. You will forget….  You will forget… You are getting sleepy… Very sleepy…

What the heck? It’s not working on you! Oh, I forgot. That only works on Alarmists.

In any case, a second mild surge as good as last winter’s second surge has made it to the Pole.

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I haven’t time to go into all the details. In a nutshell it is a surge “madoki” (Japanese for “the-same-but-different”), because (so far) it took a less direct route than last year. Rather than, like last year, roaring straight north from the Atlantic, the surge dented east over Norway and only turned north over the Kara Sea. Consequently the temperatures, on a whole, have been colder than last year’s. But that is basically straining at gnats and quibbling over piffling details. The fact of the matter is that precisely where I thought high pressure should build and form the core of a nice zonal flow (which may be wish-casting, for it would give me, down in New Hampshire, a milder winter), what to my wondering eyes should appear, but “Ralph”! (An anomalous area of low pressure at the Pole.)

 

 

To have “Ralph” reappear, when I have been putting the finishing touches to his obituary, is a sign I’m having a bad week. (It was bad enough that the hero quarterback got strip-sacked at the crucial moment, and the home team lost the Superbowl.) (Furthermore, New Hampshire is not getting the sort of mild weather I wanted.)

The problem with mild air heading up to the Pole is that it displaces the cold, which comes south one way or another and gives arctic conditions to people not prepared for such nonsense. Because this post is suppose to be about sea-ice, I’ll mention the fish-farmers on the coast of China.

But I also need to mention the Sahara, because there is something that just tickles my sense of humor about bringing Africa into a sea-ice post.

But mentioning Africa is a bit odd, as I have noticed that the phrase “one every fifty years” doesn’t sound quite right, when you use it twice in three years. I noted that oddity, when writing about the January snows along the Algeria-Morocco border three weeks ago. But now we are talking about snows along that border twice the same winter.

There are some high north-African mountains, the “Atlas”, that get snow every winter, and send precious melt-waters down to the Sahara from the north, but ordinarily these snows stay up by the clouds. It makes news when these snows spread down to lower altitudes. (The translation of the first video is, “After more than fifty years…The snows in Zagora”).

The translation for the second, longer video is, “Today: After more than 50 years…The snow in Zagora and the south-east of the Kingdom.”

At this point I need to bring up the magic word “Albedo”, which Alarmists feel is very important in discussions of sea-ice. Basically it involves sunshine that could warm our planet being bounced away by the whiteness of snow. Alarmists have suggested that less sea-ice at the Pole could allow “run away warming”. But what about snow on the northern fringes of the Sahara? The sun shines brightly there in February, while it will not shine at the Pole until the Equinox. Is there any chance all the heat lost in the Sahara could cause some sort of “run away cooling”?

Crickets.

(In any case, such a focus on the Sahara is an excellent deflection away from my forecast for a zonal arctic-flow by February 13.)

One of the most annoying aspects of a loopy (or “meridional”) flow occurs when you happen to find yourself at the place where the warm air looping north battles with the cold air looping south. In some ways it is better to endure the cold, for cold tends to be dry. When you sit on the border you can get excessive amounts of snow. For example, the core of the cold sank down in Eurasia at the end of January, and Moscow, well to the west of the worst cold, has been afflicted by Atlantic air streaming east past Norway even as arctic air streams west further south. They have had amazing amounts of snow. During the first week of February they broke their snowfall records for the entire month of February.

This clashing between colder and milder air has been annoying on my side of the planet as well, for even with the core of the cold elsewhere we can get unfair amounts of glop. I’d prefer pure, Siberian cold, for powder snow is easy to shift, and when the cold gets really cruel the old timers say, “It’s too cold to snow.”

In New Hampshire, this winter has been pleasing to Alarmists, I suppose, for the arctic retreated after the first week in January, and since then temperatures have been around seven degrees above normal. This doesn’t really thaw us, for our average temperature is 20°F (-7°C), and “mild” only lifts us to 27°F (-3°C). However an average of 27°F does allow for daily highs to creep above freezing, and does allow snow to turn to sleet, freezing rain, and brief episodes of all-out rain, which creates slush as heavy as mud.  You must shift this heavy glop from walkways and drives, or it swiftly freezes harder than iron. (I’ll take shoveling powder snow any day.)

Nor does all the glop make lake-ice thinner. Wet, heavy snow on ice pushes the ice down, and water oozes up through cracks and turns the snow to slush. It takes little (just a cold, starry night), to turn that slush to solid ice, as, being ice-water, it is right at the freezing point. Then, besides the original two feet of ice that the bitter cold of early January created, you have an additional two feet of ice created by “milder” temperatures, and frozen slush.

The ice is now so thick on lakes that crazy young men are having races with vehicles and motor cycles that have scary wheels with steel teeth. The churning, spinning wheels chip away a foot of the ice on the corners of the tracks, but nobody seems very nervous about chewing through to water.

I know that lake-ice is not the same as sea-ice, but I thought it interesting that “milder” weather brought snow that turned to slush that turned to ice, and therefore “milder” made the ice a foot or two thicker than it might be if it stayed cold and dry.

Of course, some people never get out of their offices, and don’t understand such counter-intuitive things. There is much to learn from simply hiking about lakes, especially reservoirs that rise with rains and thaws and sink when the dry cold returns. I have young Climate-scientists studying local lake-ice, and am eagerly awaiting my government grants and money from Big Oil.

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Of course, insurance companies, in their warm offices, do not approve of such research. They fear “risk”. They want everyone to stay indoors. However they must allow a few out, called “adjusters”. A parent of a child I cared for was such an “adjuster”, and told me a tale that I think typifies the difference between the “indoors” and the “outdoors” mentality.

Today was a typical “glop” day, starting with a quick dump of six inches of snow, which makes things look like a Norman Rockwell painting.

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However then the rot set in. The snow sped up, falling faster, and abruptly turned to rain, though temperatures were still well below freezing. Because Moms driving home from work do not have scary wheels with steel teeth, insurance adjusters get called out a lot when the driving stinks.

Now this should give you an inkling of the office mindset, in this corner of the insurance world: If you had to send a fellow out into abysmal driving conditions, what would you reduce your profit by paying for? Snow tires? Or a tattle-tale gadget that keeps track of your adjuster’s GPS and road-speed. If you answered “snow tires”, you are sane, and don’t work in this particular front office.

On a day like today an adjuster received an irate phone-call from his boss. “What in blue blazes are you up to?” the boss inquired.

“What are you going on about?” replied the adjuster.

“You’ve been going 110 mph! Are you crazy!”

The adjuster stayed calm. “Did you check the GPS?”

“Um…no…”

“Check it.”

After a pause the boss muttered, “Oh.  Um…you’re in your driveway?”

“Yes, and do you think I can get the company van going 110 mph (177 kph) in my driveway?”

“Hmm.  Probably not. So…..were your tires spinning?”

“Of course they were spinning! And will you puh-leeze requisition snow tires for the company vans?”

“Oh, no! The stock-holders demand a profit! And we expect our adjusters to know how to drive in the snow.”

Case closed.

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Local View –Western Zephyrs–

Perhaps it is due to my recent bout with the ‘flu, but my recovery has involved being in touch with a mystical side of myself I’m not certain my Christian brethren would entirely approve of. I am “communing with nature” more, which suggests there is something I am communing with. This sounds dangerously close to worshiping a false god, when God is the only One worthy of worship. Christians are clear about that. However I think many Christians unknowingly worship money and fame, without being aware they are worshiping a false god, whereas “communing with nature” doesn’t necessarily involve worship. You are just having a chat with an invisible entity. Perhaps having a chat with the invisible is dangerous, if you believe the only invisible thing you should be involved with is God.  However fame is invisible, and money is merely paper, unless you value its invisible component. Unless and until a person completely renounces the value of money, they have no business scolding me for valuing the west wind.

I wasn’t even aware I was valuing the west wind until Joe Bastardi, making a trivial aside during one of his podcasts, mentioned there was something special about the west winds that deserved a name. He said the wind wasn’t a true Chinook, but like a colder Chinook. He called it a something-or-another Chinook, (likely he should have called it a “Chinook Modoki,” to be truly meteorological), but I was aware I was instantly dissatisfied. But why?

It deserved better. There is something amazingly kindly about west winds in January, especially after a period of bitter north winds. Even though west winds remain below freezing (this far north), it isn’t a cold that makes you wince and cringe, and life relaxes a bit. This in turn makes me want to sing some version of “Zippity do dah.” The poet in me just wants to praise the west wind. (Not worship the west wind. Just thank it, as one would thank a friend.)

However as soon as you call an inanimate thing such as the west wind a “friend”, you look a bit loopy. So be it. When no one is looking, I’ll smile and wave at a small dust-devil of leaves swirling across the pasture.

I suppose I have always secretly agreed with the ancient Greeks, who stated that these whirls are actually lesser angels, called “zephyrs”. The whirls have a mind of their own, and can be mischievous. I saw this first when only aged fifteen.

I was just finishing up a leaf-raking job for a rich man with a palatial house that had two wings extending to the northeast and northwest. His lawn stepped down through a series of terraces to a road, and across the road was a pasture, and at the far side of the pasture I saw a dust-devil of leaves start whirling. I immediately muttered, “Don’t you dare”, but the whirl of leaves came steadily across the pasture, growing larger and larger and containing more and more leaves. It crossed the road and came up between the two wings of the house, and then proceeded to promptly die, dumping a rain of around three inches of leaves over the area I had just finished raking. It looked worse than before I had begun. And wouldn’t you know it? My wealthy employer chose just then to come out to see how I was getting along with the job. He shot me the funniest expression.

These zephyrs are not always unhelpful. Fifty years later, just last week, I was struggling to get a twilight campfire going out in a pasture at my Childcare, but freezing rain had coated all my wood with ice and the fire was barely smoldering. I was huffing and puffing, being a human bellows in an attempt to get the fire hot enough to dry the wood in the deepening dusk. Just then a most inconsequential-seeming whirl of leaves came across the pasture. Perhaps because of the fire’s slight updraft, it swerved to the fire and just stopped there for around 45 seconds. It seemed to get bigger due to the fire’s heat, and all the coals glowed cherry red as it whirled its wind around the fire. By the time it moved off the fire was blazing. I tipped my hat and thanked that particular zephyr, as it wandered away into the darkening woods.

There. I have done it: Confessed I am a mad poet. But don’t worry. I keep it to myself, and know how to behave in public.

Nor do I pray to the west wind. I seriously believe there is only One God worthy of worship. However he does employ a lot of angels, which, although in some respects mere robotic automatons of God’s Will, are enchanting because God’s Will is enchanting, loving because God’s Will is loving, and are humorous and mischievous because such joy is not outside of God’s nature. Just because a poet is in some respects a friend of angels doesn’t mean he worships them.  Give me a break, you fellow Christians, who I have noticed praying to a few outside of the One God, (such as the Virgin Mary, and Saint Cuthbert).  Cannot I just rhapsodize a bit, without being accused of some foul heresy?

Anyway, in the end of all ends all the glory rolls back to the Creator. When I adore my wife I am not worshiping a false god, for I recognize Who made her. In like manner one can be in the world, but not of the world. Money is not evil, when used correctly, but love of money is.  When one has the joy of a good friend one should recognize a good friend is a manifestation of God’s glory.

This heavenly mood I’m in seems a typical response I go through, after feeling like hell with the ‘flu. However even when in such moods one should be in the heavens without being of the heavens, because even that enchantment is not the end of ends God has in store for us.

But I wrote this sonnet after standing in the west wind, in a Zippity-do-dah mood.

Wearing feathers plucked from a flaring sunset
God’s angels of the west wind balm the pines,
And though I don’t hope for spring, I have met
Lost memories in this cold’s kinder designs.

What is that music just beyond hearing?
What’s that scent mixed with the sweet balsam fir’s?
Who am I looking for, without fearing,
Who I haven’t yet met? The cruel winter’s
Bitterness knows a pause, and all awaits
Something announced by the golden kindness
Of the west wind. The harsh face of Fate’s
Softened by surprise. A world gone mindless
Is reminded. I see every man stunned
By the swinging doors of banks left abandoned.

In conclusion I should add that being in a heavenly mood does not mean I am allowed to neglect worldly details, and one detail of our long winters is that long thaws in January, with lovely west winds, are often followed by a ferocious February. Therefore my poetic streak has a pragmatic side. The next sonnet will likely involve woodpiles.

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LOCAL VIEW –In Awe Of Thaw–(updated)

The first week of January was brutal, blasting, bitter and a blizzard. Often we would only have the children outside for a half hour, for the wind chills were simply too dangerous to allow prolonged exposure. We spent more time dressing and undressing them than we spent outdoors, but it does pass the time, and they do rejoice at having a brief time outside. If they are too cooped up they literally bounce off the walls.

Worst was the wind, which often gusted to gale force.  Simply having the winds calm down made it seem far warmer, and when temperatures rose all the way to 32°F (0°F) the children were eager to hike. So was I. I wanted to see what the winds had done.

In the forest the snow was mixed  with bits of pine needles, as if the needles had become brittle in the cold and broken in the blasts, and there was a drift by each tree trunk, even in the shelter of the trees. The children found the landscape strangely changed, with a place they liked to hide behind a rock completely buried, even as a nearby path was swept down to the level of the dirt. They also found some drifts were packed to a consistency of Styrofoam, and they could walk on them, while other crumbled and they wallowed up to their waists, often requiring rescue. We tended to stick to the trails packed by snowmobiles to play it safe.

The most amazing drift was on the downwind side of the dam at the flood control reservoir. The blasting winds had swept the reservoir largely free of snow, but the downwind side of the dam had a drift that was in places thirty feet deep.

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I was surprised by the cracks forming in the drift, as its sheer bulk pulled it downhill like a glacier.

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I doubted the drift was going to tumble down as a small avalanche, but decided I didn’t want to take the chance. Therefore I warned the kids away from the edge and we only looked at the frozen outlet of the reservoir from afar.

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Instead we hiked down the other, windswept side of the dam.

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The kids were enchanted by the other worldly landscape. More than one paused, looked up at me, and commented in the matter-of-fact manner of the small, “This is really fun.”

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The drifts were crisp and firm, but the underbrush (to left in picture below) would cave in and the kids would find themselves abruptly up to their waists.

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Without the wind, none complained of cold, and the children seemed quite content to loll in the wan sunshine.

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When it was time to go back for lunch there is always one so enchanted they don’t want to leave.

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We only has two days to enjoy such hikes, because the thaw grew stronger, and the snow grew heavy and wet. But this also meant the snow became sticky enough to build forts and snowmen.

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My staff did get a bit carried away with the snowman.

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But the kids appreciated setting a “world record.”

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I couldn’t be as involved as I usually am, as I was dealing with what often seems to come hand in hand with a thaw. Namely the ‘flu. (Though the thaw gets the blame, I think it is the period of close confinement just before the thaw that allows the spread of germs, and after the inoculation it takes a week for the ‘flu to break out. ) In any case you know something is wrong when a lively child abruptly decides to take a nap in the snow.

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I have a sneaky suspicion that, in a few cases, parents can’t afford to miss work, and load up their children in cough syrup before delivering them to us, hoping the kids will make it through the day. The kids were dropping like flies, usually around the time a four hour cough syrup would wear off, though that may just be a coincidence.

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Most parents are pretty good about leaving work to pick their children up. Only a few shut their phones off.

By Friday we only had five of our ordinary twelve all-day children, and I was showing symptoms. Though I wash my hands often, kids vomited on me, and it’s hard to avoid the virus when exposed in that manner. Nor did the ‘flu shot do much good this year, as apparently 70% of the people who got the vaccine still got the ‘flu.

In any case at noon on Friday I took to my bed on my doctor’s orders, and have only left it to limp off, achy and shivering, to feed my goats. My wife is also down, which is highly unusual, as she almost never gets sick.

Therefore I didn’t take pictures of how the snow swiftly vanished under the drumming fingers of a warm rain. There is no snow left in the yard where they made a giant snowman on Thursday.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to this post tomorrow. And a sonnet about rain on the roof.

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It was 5°F (-15°C) at dawn so I think we can state THE THAW IS OVER,

As promised, here is a picture of the Childcare playground, so full of sticky snow last Thursday.

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The cold came on so swiftly it froze up the run-off and flooding from the thaw, leading to some tricky situations at intersections. (It is hard to obey the “yield” sign on sheer ice.)

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I would have liked to drive around and look at streams, because I think there may have been some good ice jams, but simply driving a mile to feed my goats at the farm seemed to test my ability. I’m surprised I wasn’t pulled over as a driving drunk. Mostly I stayed in bed, only occasionally venturing down to put wood in the fire or check out maps on my computer. Here is the front surging across us yesterday:

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And here is the arctic high pressure atop of us today, with the front and the thaw’s mild air pushed far out to sea.

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It does not do much good to look backwards in battle or while plowing, and I’m nervous about the future of that Alberta Clipper sliding down to the Great Lakes. I’d better baby myself into shape, because it looks like snow to me. However, just for the record, here are statistics showing the thaw from the weather bureau up in Concord.

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Yesterday’s high of 57°F (14°C) was at midnight, and they’d plummeted by dawn, so it is a bit misleading to call the day +15° of normal. But that is how statistics work, sometimes.

If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. But if you like it, kiss it good-bye.

No sonnet so far. I googled “Sonnets from a sickbed”, and have been entertained (by works clear back to the 1500’s), rather than have I been the entertainer.

LOCAL VIEW –Annual Frozen Pipes Post–

Even boxers get to sit down between rounds, and enjoy some rest, and also Sunday is the Day of Rest, and therefore my wife and I decided that after church we’d go out and have someone else cook, and have someone else serve, and have someone else do the dishes. We figured we deserved it, after coming through the grueling blizzard we’ve just been through. Monday might be just around the corner, but we’d pamper ourselves on Sunday afternoon.

Not that problems don’t intrude even on our Sundays. The latest attempt to repair our washing machine didn’t work, and we had a huge pile of laundry to do at a Laundromat before we went out to eat. However the machines did big loads in only 22 minutes, and, (because my wife decided we might as well wash all sorts of stuff I didn’t think needed washing, while we were at it,) we walked in with 12 loads, used four huge washers, inserted 76 quarters, soap, and then walked out to sit in the car for 22 minutes. The sun was settling down on a winter horizon and we had stuff to talk about. 22 minutes later we hustled hampers of wet laundry back to the car (because our drier still works at home, and our cellar can use the heat,) and headed off to the restaurant. The sunset was a beautiful gold, and I couldn’t help but notice that it was later; before Christmas it was dark at 4:30 but now it is golden and pink.

Among the many things we talked about in our usual, efficient, and scatter-brained way was this Sunday’s sermon at church, which was about “The Rapture”. Although the word “rapture” is not used in the Bible, there are numerous, somewhat-upsetting references to a time that could happen any day, when believers would be swept up to heaven and non-believers left behind to endure seven highly unattractive years on earth.  (This concept inspired the movie, “Left Behind”.)

Back when Jesus’s disciples were still alive the idea Jesus could return “any day” kept people on their toes, but after 2000 years people are perhaps jaded. If you tell them the Rapture might occur in five minutes, people tend to roll their eyes and say, “Right. I’ve heard that one before.” People are not as impressed by the prophesy as they once were. Today’s sermon simply asked, “But what if it happened? Where would you be? Swept up, or left behind?”

Even though I am a “believer”, and have faith in things people say I’m nuts to have faith in, I confess I’m often far from perfect. I do have a temper. I usually apologize afterwards, but not everyone forgives me. And this got me to thinking about the timing of the Rapture.

If the Rapture occurred when I was repenting, and apologetic, and asking for forgiveness, and accepting the abuse of those who are in no mood to forgive me, then I might pass for saintly, and be swept up. But what if the Rapture occurred right when I was at my worst? What if it occurred at the moment I was pounding my fist on a table and telling someone to stuff an unmentionable thing up an unmentionable orifice?  It seems highly unlikely such a person (me) would be permitted to be swept up, and far more likely that person (me) would be left behind.

I was bringing this up in a humorous way, and perhaps a bit too flippantly, for it stirred up my wife, and she waxed eloquent on how the foibles of those who are believers are different from the foibles of those who don’t believe. Her excellent points are too complicated to repeat at this time. I am just bringing this up because some think that people at laundromats are a bunch of low life retards.  We’re not. We are actually highly intellectual and altruistic thinkers. Perhaps it is those who do laundry at home who are the retards.

But this discussion, about who the retards are, is definitely getting too profound for my humble post. This is often the case when you broach spiritual mysteries. What I meant to say was a more simple thing, namely: I decided that maybe I would try harder than usual to keep my temper in check, just in case the Rapture was imminent.

Actually it was easy to keep my temper in check. Even though it still was very cold, you could feel the mercy of a thaw was in the wings. And even if you were not sensitive to the shift of the wind to the southwest, you could always check your cell phone, and find reasons to rejoice.

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Hallelujah! Cellphones are a wonderful invention. Even if long-term forecasts are a government trick to keep us from despairing during cold winters, it is a trick that works.

This morning it was -13°F (-25°) here, but Wednesday it might be +45°F (+7°C). It will feel like April, after what we’ve undergone. And it does tend to fill me with a benevolence when the outlook is so hopeful. It would be good if the Rapture occurred at such a moment, for I am beaming with generosity.

To further the beaming, I ordered a martini, and sat at the best seat in the restaurant, (because the dinner rush hadn’t started at 4:30), and gazed at the final beams of sunshine slipping from the topmost needles of the white pine across a frozen waterfall.

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There is nothing like looking at hardship through a rear view mirror.  A flat tire isn’t funny when you are jacking the car up in the cold, but when the tire is changed and you are on the road again, you can laugh, and get the joke. And seeing the frozen waterfall was like seeing evidence of the incredible cold we’d been through in the past tense, for the present tense was a warm restaurant, a charming waitress, and a steaming dish of delectable food placed before me. And just then a text came through on my cell phone.

Cell phones are a horrible invention.

To cut the texting short, the situation was this: My pregnant daughter is living briefly above my Childcare as her young husband makes the money for an apartment they have their eyes on in Boston. He’d made a big wad of dough as a Uber driver during blizzard condition in Boston, but only had snatched bits of sleep on a friend’s couch, and now had come home for a hot shower and a sleep in his wife’s arms….but the shower didn’t work. Cross examination discovered the sink and toilets didn’t work, neither upstairs nor downstairs at the the childcare. Pipes had frozen at the source, which was a different building, an old abandoned farm house across the driveway.

Blame the sermon in church, or blame the martini, but I had not the slightest urge to slam the table and rave, “Can’t I even have a single meal in peace?” Or…well…I’ll admit I did say to my wife something along the lines of, “I thought when she married her problems became his, and weren’t mine any more.” But that was more of a quip than a serious statement. There was no way an exhausted young man could figure out the irregularities of a a farm that slowly sprawled over a hundred years, with pipes and wires added in a unplanned manner. I was the only available expert.

I refused to hurry. I could have rushed to the farm in twenty minutes but instead texted, “Be there in an hour.” (Didn’t get a “happy face” reply.)  Then I enjoyed my meal, (though I did talk a little more about peculiar plumbing than I might have). I kept my sense of peace, because the Rapture might happen at any moment, and it it wouldn’t look good if I was cursing and gobbling food and gulping the final third of a martini and putting my jacket on upside down. Instead I was as smooth as silk.

Come to think of it, it was bizarre. I should have lost my temper, but didn’t. We drove home, unloaded laundry, and then I sauntered upstairs to change out of my Sunday outfit into work clothes. I came downstairs, gathered a few tools and some rags, and my wife handed me a big thermos of boiling water. I drove to the farm, located an extension cord and a heater with a blower, talked briefly with my daughter and her husband, and then waded through the drifts to the dark, old farmhouse, and decended into its creepy cellar.

What a switch in scenes! Fifty-five minutes earlier I’d been in the lap of luxury with a lovely wife looking out at a gorgeous view with scrumptious food before me, and now I was in a dingy cave festooned with spiderwebs. You would have thought the martini would have worn off, but, instead of cursing, I laughed. The irony of the scenery-switch would be too absurd for a novel, but life is better than a book.

I couldn’t locate the problem, but kept my good mood, humming hymns like an old man pottering in a sunny garden, as I brushed aside dirty spiderwebs and checked the usual suspects: The fuse box, the pressure tank, the pressure switch, and even a cellar faucet, which gushed water. Where could a pipe freeze? Couldn’t be the main line. I had a heat lamp baking where the pipes went into the field-stone wall to cross over to the childcare. It couldn’t be there. But then I noticed a loop of pipe sidetracking into a water softener system, just outside of the reach of the heat lamp. Could that be it? Probably not. Surely the heat would travel along that short length of pipe. But, just to cover all bases, I wrapped those pipes in rags and poured boiling-hot water from the thermos onto the rags. Then I looked around and began thinking of getting more chords and setting up more heat lamps and heaters, but just then my phone advised me of an incoming text.

Sometimes cellphones are wonderful things. The text was from my daughter, across the yard:

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Best was the simple fact no frozen pipe was broken.

Then I got the pleasure of sauntering over to my daughter and her husband and seeing their great delight over something we take for granted: Running water. And also there was the delight of a young man who has been craving a long, hot, relaxing shower, and now gets to take one.

But what about me? Wasn’t I craving a long, hot, relaxing meal? Why am I always the one being interrupted?

I didn’t actually think that. I just put it down because I thought of it now. At the time I was all smiles, and enjoying being a hero. I also was enjoying the strange sensation of having not lost my temper, even once. Too bad the Rapture didn’t happen while I was being so saintly, although I suppose, with my luck, if it was going to happen at any given time it would have happened just when I ordered the martini.

In any case we survived a cold wave, and the traditional episode of frozen pipes. Next comes the January thaw, for the map shows the arctic got too greedy and has overreached its limits. There is a bit of a front southwest of Jamaica, showing how far south the blast reached. Down there I suppose they may find the cool breeze delightful. What we will find delightful is the western side of the high, bringing north mildness we haven’t seen in weeks.

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LOCAL VIEW –Shuddering–

And still the winds are roaring this black dawn
When stars stab cold knives and the sift of snow
Hisses by my door, and before the roar’s gone
The next blast rattles the sash. The window
Looks out darkly. I see I should have done
So many things back when weather was warm
But now it is too late. I can blame no one
And can do nothing but endure this storm
Shuddering. Hope is too far away to grasp
And the east dawns no sun, but a cold moon
Instead leers skullish on bent hills. I would clasp
Your warm love and warble the sweetest tune
If only Your smile hove into sight.
It’s in darkest dark I remember the Light.

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Iced dawn spills over the shuddering east
And reveals a white world that has drifted.
The pre-storm chores I shirked are now least
on my list. Priorities have shifted
In a world white as an unwritten page.

Who will write the first words with a trail
Of blue footprints? The house is like a cage.
I’ll bolt and walk a signature as winds wail.
I will pace a poem, although drifts erase
My tracks like shifting sand. My words are like
A small child’s sand castle by the stern face
Of unthinking surf, yet still I will hike
Across a hillside, and my tracks will spell
The magic only poetry can tell.

What a cruel day! Not a true sub-zero day like they have out in the plains, but close enough, with a high of 7°F and winds that wouldn’t have the decency to knock it off.

Added to my Saturday chores of taking the recyclables to the recyclable center (where none of the equipment worked in the cold) and going to the bank, (bad hair days), were added things to do outside in an unkind wind, such as rake the big drifts from a roof before the drifts gained weight with rain and collapsed structures. And get my bulky, broken snowblower up into the back of a pick-up truck to be taken off and repaired. Or face a path I’ve had to shovel three times by hand already, drifted in.

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But when I step back I see that same wind scoured the driveway free of snow.

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All things considered, my neighbor across the street likely had grounds for a lawsuit. Fourteen inches of snow buried my fences to the bottom rail, but the cruel gales stripped all that snow to the ground-level crust of a pre-Christmas snow,  and deposited it all in his drive.

Simply to be out of doors was an ordeal, and surreal. All the faces you met were pained and wincing, and I had the odd sense I was in the dog house, as everyone looked mad at me. Had I done something Friday night I couldn’t remember? No, because I’m not that young anymore. I had no hangover when I awoke, only when I stepped outside.

The buffeting was like the blows of a boxing match. A man who fought Mohammed Ali stated no jab hurt, but after a while you noticed his jabs made you feel a bit dizzy. And Mohammed Ali himself stated that the fifteenth round of a fight was like functioning in a dream and in a circus.  You’ve been knocked for a loop but refuse to go down for the count. Somehow you keep tottering about, still battling.

This probably explains why this post begins with two sonnets. The jabbing wind had punched me into a mental state which some get called “poets” for being in, while others wind up in institutions.

Even as I emphasis how bad it was, it wasn’t near the worst. New England has seen such blasts twenty degrees colder. So I have no real reason to complain, especially as the winds finally died down a bit in the afternoon. At long last the Blizzard was fading away towards Baffin Bay and Labrador.

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The map shows the massive arctic high bringing modified polar air all the way down to Jamaica and Costa Rica. But here it was not modified. Here we got the real deal.

After experiencing “the real deal”, few find New England as attractive as Norman Rockwell made it look.  There will be an upsurge in homes for sale in this area next spring. Quaint has its limits, and the pathways of art are not for all. Where Norman Rockwell produced paintings and I produce sonnets, many turn their backs and skedaddle. Can’t say I really blame them.

*******

SUNDAY MORNING 7:00 AM -12°F (-24 °C) 30.31 and at last the wind has ceased.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –A Boston Bombo-Blizzard–(With Friday Night Conclusion)

“Bombogenesis” is the word given by weather geeks for the explosive development of a nor’easter into a gale center as it moves up the east coast of the USA. Such storms are not as well understood as some believe, but there are some fairly reliable signs one is on the way. One of the best signs is to go into a grocery store to buy bread and see this:

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This sort of spectacle is indicative of great zeal on the part of the weather bureau, provoking panic on the part of the public, and suggests maybe I should check up on the young whippersnappers, and see what in blue blazes the geeks are up to.  Likely I’ll see, if it is winter, that they have gotten a bee in their bonnets and have issued an “Armageddon Alarm.” In this particular case I was a little disappointed to see it was merely a “Blizzard Warning”. Ho Hum.

I went outside, and it was about the nicest day we’ve had in a week. The temperature was up above 20°F (-7°C), which doesn’t seem warm unless it has been far colder for a while. It has been so cold that the air hurt your face, and people wore flinching expressions. When you can finally stop flinching, the relief is all out of proportion to the reality. Local folk walk around with big smiles on their faces, at temperatures that make people who have just returned from vacations in Florida shudder and wrap their coats around themselves more tightly.

If you want to spoil things for the folk relishing the improved temperatures, you put on a grouchy face and mutter, “Just a while back folk were speaking the old saw, ‘It’s too cold to snow’, but they’re not saying that any more. It’s warm enough to snow now.” This may not be as liable to provoke panic as a “blizzard warning”, but it does express the grumpy idea that no good can come out of any improvement.

Another pessimism is expressed in the idea that an especially blue sky is a sign of storm, and manifests as the local saw:

When the sky is fekless blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

Still, this lacks the drama of a blizzard warning. It is hardly even ominous. And indeed a nice sunset at 4:20 PM sparked a memory of a more optimistic saw:

Red at night
Sailor’s delight.

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The only thing slightly threatening about the sunset was the fact the jet contrails were not fading away, and instead were expanding. But old timers didn’t have newfangled things like jet contrails.  Such ideas were above their down-to-earth heads, so I decided to check out the surface maps. Surface maps are down-to-earth, and go clear back to the 1860’s, so no one can accuse me of being newfangled if I look at them.

There is really no obvious sign of doom. Two days ago there is just a massive arctic high repressing what was left of a Pacific storm out in the Rocky Mountains to the west, and pushing tropical moisture away to the farthest southern reaches of the map.

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Yesterday we saw a new cold front appear across Canada, as even colder air rolled south, and on its east side a weak low like an Alberta Clipper, (which perhaps should be called a Hudson Bay Clipper), exploit the slight uplift caused by slight warmth of water beneath Hudson Bay’s thin sea-ice as an excuse to come nearly due south, towards the slight uplift caused by the Great Lakes. But that low down by Florida? It looked sure to be pushed out to sea by the big arctic high to its northwest. Right?

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Wrong. The computer models were stating it would blow up to a big storm off the coast. And a certain (usually younger) species of weather geek have great faith in models, and little faith in their own ability to forecast. If a prankster had the models produce a forecast for showers of obleck mixing with strawberry brandy they would rumple their brows with serious contemplation.

This morning we saw the Hudson Bay Clipper sag to the Great Lakes and grow stronger. The arctic high pressure to its south warmed and stopped pressing down with sinking cold air, and consequently lost its ability to press down high pressure with remarkable speed. The high pressure shrank. The dinky little low over Florida did not zip out to sea, but lingered and strengthened.

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By midday the Florida low was showing signs of strengthening, and had created a coastal front to its north.

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This evening the Florida low is deepening and moving north along the coastal front. The big arctic high pressure has all but vanished from the map.

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Still, there seems little reason to freak out. Yet people are. Schools are canceled for tomorrow. In some cases, near Boston, they are cancelled for Friday as well.

If the Florida low slices out to sea we will get only a dusting, and the weathermen will look like fools.

If the Florida low hooks inland, we will get rain and the weathermen will look like fools.

I bring this up because I am in awe of the risks these fellows take, making a forecast of a blizzard and precipitating a panic. The younger ones have little idea of the dynamics involved in “bombogenesis”, while the old-school can tell you of many of the dynamics involved. The younger ones merely look at a computer print-out, and parrot what computers regurgitate. The older ones understand the concepts that programmed the computers, and that the concepts are far from perfect.

If you put imperfect concepts in, imperfect forecasts will result, but the younger forecasters haven’t learned this yet, and tend to be too trusting of computer models.  The older forecasters are more on their toes, waiting and watching for signs of imperfection. They know, “Tomorrow will tell.”

Of course this post will need updates, so we can see what tomorrow tells us. I expect I will continue to be in awe of what weathermen dare to do, even if others scoff because a storm sliced fifty miles east, or hooked fifty miles west, and made parts of their forecast look silly.  People forget that they themselves never saw the storm coming two days ago, and are quick to ridicule those who did see it coming, if they miss the storm’s exact track by a matter of miles.

If the storm allows me time to sit and we don’t lose power, I hope to share the little I know about the factors that lead to bombogenesis. Those are the dynamics programmed into computers that make computers look amazing, when they are right.

Those are the factors young meteorologists should study, if they want to be aware of those times computers are wrong.

Here the stars are fading out, and high clouds have stopped the fall of temperatures, which reached a low of 2°F but are now back up to 4°F. This will be the first night we haven’t fallen below zero (-17°C) in a week.

Thursday Morning 6:30 AM

Temperature has risen to 15°F (-9°C) overnight, and pressure is falling to 29.66. Pressure was something the old-timers were savvy to, and they’d be on guard now, keeping an eye on the “glass” (barometer).

The map shows the storm exploding off the coast. At this point everyone should give meteorologists some credit, for foreseeing a storm would even be there.

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8:00 AM

Temperature is still at 15°F, but the pressure is falling fast, to 29.56. The snow began at around 6:00 and we only had a quarter inch when I went to spread a little sand at the Childcare. (A dust of snow over old, packed-and-polished snow can be amazingly slippery.) By 7:30 three quarters of our customers had cancelled. We will likely have only six children today. (We never close, for some parents have to work even in the snow; some Dads drive plows or are policemen, and some Moms work at hospitals. In ten years the only time we closed was a single day during an ice-storm, when the road was made completely impassable due to fallen limbs and trees.)

The cold snow is amazingly squeaky to walk upon. Tires make a strange growling sound when cars swing slowly into the Childcare’s driveway. I was brooming, as there was too little snow to shovel. There are gale warning for later, but the snow was merely slanting as it fell through the gray quiet. (Warning! Warning! Fit of poetry may attack me.) To my surprise the wind was from the southeast. Likely just a temporary, local effect, but I note it for southeast winds can bring about surprising spikes in temperature and change snow to rain.

Now I’m back home, and waiting for the snow to build up before going back to work. There are some amusing reports from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where they are not used to snow. Here’s a picture from Savannah, on the coast of Georgia:

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Notice how the snow is not melting on the pavement. That is very rare, that far south. Although I know how to drive on such slick surfaces, no one else has a clue, and you couldn’t pay me to venture out on a southern highway under such circumstances. Its like trying to drive in a pinball game, at times. Up here our snow is so dry and squeaky it actually has traction, and even southern drivers have a chance of staying on the street.

Boston humor going viral:

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(Note for foreign viewers: The bottom face is the famous coach of our professional football team.)

The gale is developing an eye like a hurricane. (Picture from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell)

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Like London facing Blitz, Boston musters humor:

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Boston Globe reports 700 flights canceled, but subway running well. Go underground. (That’s what groundhogs do, until February 2).

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Judging from twitter, no one is heading underground or even indoors just yet and instead folk are out snapping pictures.

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Maybe I should do the same.

9:10 AM 18°F 29.50 

Storm now officially is a “bomb”. Notice the coastal front forming just east of New England. Cape Cod now forecast to get rain. Folk there will be scorning the weathermen, because yesterday the storm was thought to be heading a bit further off shore, which would have given them a blizzard. They’ll still get winds of storm force, with gusts over hurricane force. Our peak gusts should be around 50, here in the hills, though I’ll bet the hilltops will see higher. (Most old-timers chose to build down in the valleys.)

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What now could mess up the forecasts is if the storm drills so deeply into the atmosphere it slows down and even stalls. The Blizzard of 1888’s track described a tight little loop, and New York got two feet blown into towering drifts, as Boston got two inches of slush. But forecasters seem confident this storm won’t stall.

10:12 AM:  20°F 29.44

12:22  PM: 23°F  29.18

Hard to tell with the wind, but I’d say we are already over six inches. I think the snow grew heavy earlier than expected. This is the real deal.

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I have photographic proof I did leave this computer and snow-blow the first six inches from the Childcare parking lot.

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I couldn’t hear the wind due to the roaring of the engine, but the gusts brought blinding white-outs.

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After I was done I decided my goats were smart to just hide out, under the barn.

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The meekest one prefers to be fed up where the others can’t harass it.

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You need to be wary with these devilish creatures. For example, it is a little known fact goats have the power to hypnotize. This one is saying, “You are getting sleepy…sleepy…very sleepy. You will move your goats to Florida…Florida…to Florida.”

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2:11 PM: 23°F  29.02 (High temperature was 25°F)

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5:00 PM  21°F 28.88  Around a foot. Snowblower broke. Still snowing hard. Temps dropping.

6:09 PM  19°F 28.91 Pressure finally rising! Ever try to find a person to plow in the middle of a storm? Snow may be slacking off, as wind is not off ocean.

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You won’t see a map like this too often:

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In places the noon high tides rivaled the 1978 blizzard’s, Here is a video of salt water cascading down the steps of Boston’s “Aquarium” subway station. I guess it wasn’t so safe underground, after all. (Salt water can’t be too good for the third rail.)

9:06 PM 16°F  28.99  Wind still roaring but the snow has stopped. I have done far too much shoveling for a man of my advanced years. I’m just going to stand in the shower until all the hot water’s used up, and then sleep.

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5:01 AM Friday Morning  10°F (-12°C)  29.20 Clean-up morning. Too busy to write.

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12:30 PM 9°F 29.35

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6:30 P.M. -1°F 29.47  Roaring wind. Drifting snow. People walking outdoors have grimacing expressions.

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This “dry side” of the storm has been in some ways crueler than the “blizzard.” Fourteen inches of snow is no big deal for tough northerners, and though the gale was by no means “mild” and the snow was powder-snow, temperatures were not all that bad. They were over twenty Fahrenheit, and the mildest in a week. Today the temperatures dropped as the sun rose. The winds grew more bitter and bitter. Nor did they weaken.

Worst was the snow in your face. At first there was some fine backlash snow from deceasing clouds that didn’t show up on radar, but even after that stopped and the sun shone brilliantly in a blue sky there were strange white shapes, dancing and twirling, ghouls of blowing snow, drifting and shifting and sifting into any crack of a barn or chink in my armor of wool. But no matter how you try to hide at least part of a face is exposed, and warm skin melts the fine particles of ice that are whipped into your face, and if there is anything colder than sub-zero wind chills against dry skin, it is sub-zero wind chills against wet skin.

This deserves a post all it’s own, for I doubt many will read through this entire post to hear of the drifting. Just allow me to conclude by saying all the fellows who tried to stay ahead of the snow by shoveling and snow-blowing and plowing yesterday faced places where they had dug pathways last night, made into smooth, flat surfaces of deep snow, by the wind and the all-night drifting, by daybreak today.

I was only able to open my Childcare this morning because my eldest son came sweeping through the parking lot with his plow. It was a good thing, because the local schools had a “two-hour-delay”. This puts parents in a predicament, for they are expected to be at work on time, and, even in the unlikely case their bosses have compassion, many parents are on such tight budgets they can’t afford even two hours cut from their pay. We, as a Childcare, step in to fill the gap, though it creates chaos for us, for the older children are suppose to leave as the younger arrive, and a two-hour-delay creates an overlap, where we have twice the kids, often with some of our staff delayed by blocked driveways. Usually we can do it, but when my snowblower broke yesterday it seemed impossible. I couldn’t ask my oldest son to help, because he has too much plowing to do as it is, and was suffering his own equipment break-downs. So I told my wife, “We’ve only been closed by storms once in ten years, but I think tomorrow will have to be our second day.” She said, “We can’t! They are depending on us!” So I was fighting a battle to just clear twenty feet of the entrance (and a path to the door) with a shovel, so people could pull in, drop off their kids, and back out. It would have been easy at age twenty, but when pushing age sixty-five it was like I was Hercules shoveling King Augeas’ stables, and I am no Hercules. I was muttering nonspiritual vocabulary and thinking the drifting might win, when my sleep-deprived eldest son came by, and saved the day.

There are a time when a pebble, or even a grain of sand, can start an avalanche which brings all to ruin.  There also times when a single deed stops ruin from happening. Storms bring such situations to the forefront. It is then that the small deeds of (seemingly) unimportant people are very important.

There is an old rhyme that starts out, “Because of a nail a horseshoe was lost”, and winds up with a kingdom falling “all because of a half-penny nail.” Conversely, there are times a kingdom is saved, because a tired son plowed an extra driveway that allowed his father’s Childcare to stay open which allowed parents to go to work so they could be taxed and allow teachers to take the day off.

Hmm. Something here isn’t adding up. But this post is already too long.

Memo to self: Expand upon this topic.

Memo to self: Try to keep posts on meteorology from straying outside the topic of the meteorology.

9:40 PM   -3°F   29.53   Wind still roaring in the pines; snow still sifting by the windows.

LOCAL VIEW –The Rapids Freeze–

The way to defeat “cabin fever” and to avoid going “shack whacky” is to grit your teeth and go out into the cold, so I decided to practice what I preach and went out to take some pictures of the Souhegan River freezing up, (with the Patriot’s game on my car radio), yesterday. It was well worth the discomfort of getting out of the comfort of my car, from time to time, to take some pictures.

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The Souhegan is basically a brook as it comes north from its headwaters down in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, but it quickly gathers other brooks, and back in the day (when water power was the only power) it fueled a number of small mills in my town.  It was enough, back then, to make my out-of-the-way backwater a center of industry, even though it was up in the hills, as people went where the power was. Later, when railways were invented, my town chose to prevent the railway from expanding because it was thought the railway would “attract the wrong people”, and that was the death knell to many of the local industries, and the town faded to its current backwater status. However one mill survives at “High Bridge”, having transitioned from an age when fabric was for clothing, to making fabric for body armor and dirigibles and even spacecraft landing on Mars.

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And just downstream is where I began freezing my fingers, taking pictures of the freezing stream.

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A few miles downstream lies Greenville, where the mills prospered more, for they did allow the railway in, (though it no longer goes that far.)

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North of there the river is a favorite place for white water kayaking in the spring,

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It was amazing how much of the water was iced over, but I couldn’t stop as the snowbanks and traffic made pulling over too dangerous. Further on, just past the Temple-Wilton line, the river passes beneath an abandoned bridge, (I think built by New Deal workers in the Great Depression).

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On the west side of Wilton another stream tumbles down from Temple Mountain to join the flow.Brook 21 FullSizeRender

The water gurgles and mutters and gargles from holes in the fast-forming ice

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And the old railway still reaches this far.

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Driftwood is frozen in place where water tumbles over the first dam.

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The second Wilton dam’s pond is solid ice

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And I simply had to crunch along the road, despite biting winds and blaring traffic, to see beneath the dam.

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Check out the outlet pipe. (And the graffiti beyond it).

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I wonder what the old water mills did, when it got this cold? (And where do the teenagers now go?)

Then on to Milford, as the river turns east.

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And more hidden artwork from warmer days.

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And onward to the Merrimack River and then southwards to the sea.

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The cold can not stop it. Ice cannot clamp
The water’s yearning for the distant sea
In its vice. Like a happy old tramp
Offered a steady job, it will flee
All restraint but that of its double banks
And the steady tugging of gravity.
So do not cold-shoulder with icy glance
The inevitable progress of the free.
Do not think you can keep children ever young
Or prevent the innocent from finding Truth,
For though arctic winters have come and stung,
Forever fluid is the river called “Youth”,
And though your white may clench from bank to bank
Underground gurgles will sing and will thank.

It pays to practice what you preach, and to walk the walk besides talking the talk. Although I may have appeared a foolish old man, out taking pictures with a cell-phone in a wind that could freeze the bleep off a bleep, heedless of the whizzing vehicles flying past with incredulous onlookers, (or sort of heedless), I had no symptoms of cabin fever as I headed home. In fact I noticed that, once you have spent time trying to find the perfect angle for a picture, and the right views to capture an idea, your eyes seem to become stuck in the habit, and even when you are not taking pictures any more the whole world looks strangely photogenic, and you see beauty you usually overlook.

Last but not least, you never know what you will find, if you just get out and look. I was seeking river ice. Who would dream I would find graffiti?