LOCAL VIEW –The Underground Bugs–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GONZALO GONE

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The upper map shows Hurricane Gonzalo heading northeast, after clouting Bermuda, towards the middle of the right margin. (If you click these maps you can get a less fuzzy version.)

The second map shows that, in the process of a day, Gonzalo sped right off the upper right corner of the map. That is fine with me. We had a meteorological set-up this year that made me nervous, but we escaped without a hurricane hitting New England.

When I was younger I actually wanted to be hit, as it would have been exciting, and also would have supplied me and my chainsaw with a lot of work, and lots of free firewood.  (Hurricane Bob actually kept my family warm one winter, back when I tended to become broke around Christmas,  because I saw my landscaping work dry up after the last leaves were raked.)

Now I’m older and would rather see the leaves stay on the trees as long as possible. The worst hurricanes around here hit when the leaves are green, and trees tip over like sailboats with too much sail aloft. Later hurricanes strip all the colored leaves off the trees in a matter of hours.  If a hurricane hits now we have few leaves left, and our trees can withstand a blast when their branches are bare, just as a sailboat can avoid capsizing when “running before a gale on poles.”

Oddly, often our worst winds occur in non-hurricane nor’easters, which have winds “of hurricane force.”  Our hurricanes, on the other hand, have often weakened and no longer have winds “of hurricane force.”  It makes me think we should coin the phrase, “winds of nor’easter force.”  If you have sailed the North Atlantic, you understand it holds gales that make hurricanes look small, though such gales shriek in places where few live, and get little press.

Nor’easters only get press on this side of the Atlantic when they fail to zip out to sea. Most do, but occasionally a “blocking pattern” causes to them to “stall” just off Cape Cod, or, even more rarely, even further south.  Hurricane Sandy was actually still a warm-core hurricane as it moved ashore, but to verify its own forecast the Hurricane Center “downgraded” Sandy to a nor’easter. Sandy demonstrated how much respect a nor’easter deserves, though there have been worse. A nor’easter in February 1978 gave Cape Cod winds over 100 mph.

I’m getting too old for such nonsense.  I’m in the autumn of my life, and perhaps, just as leaves turn yellow, I’m getting a little yellow myself.

We did have an early frost on September 19, which, as our last frost of the Spring was on May 29, gave us the shortest frost-free period of summer I can remember. However, because I’m old and had other things to do, I failed to weed my garden in late August, and the weeds protected my plants. The weeds got frosted, as my pepper plants beneath were spared.  Since then we have had a second summer, and I actually picked some fine peppers today, on October 18, a month after our first frost.

This is actually a bad omen. I predict a terrible winter, as kindly autumns often hint at cruelty to come.

I make this prediction because I figure I might cause winter to be mild, by predicting bitter cold. It is sheer superstition, sort of like thinking you can make it rain by washing your car.  However the meteorological set-up exists, just as the set-up existed for New England hurricanes, last June.  I can’t recall if I actually predicted hurricanes last June, but if I did, I hexed them all out to sea, according to my superstition. In the same manner I am attempting to hex an awful winter, which seems all too likely to me, clear across the planet into China.

Then I will get to enjoy a kinder and gentler time.  I have really enjoyed the mildness that followed me across that USA when I was on my trip, moving from weather map to weather map.

When I got home I was confronted with a horrible amount of work for a man my age, as an attempt to avoid work backfired. Rather than cutting wood I ordered $900.00 worth, but because I wasn’t home to oversee, 3 of the 4 cords were dumped where my wife parks her car. I had to move three chord (4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet makes a chord) by loading the  back of my pick up, driving it 100 feet, and unloading it where it should have been unloaded.  Fortunately my son helped, but it also helped that the weather was mild, which kept my old muscles loose. It was actually 67 degrees at dawn last week, which is thirty degrees above normal.

Also I got to be outside and just look around and enjoy the foliage. People come from all over the world to see New Hampshire’s foliage in the fall. I always try to look picturesque, like a character in a Norman Rockwell painting, when an un-tinted bubble-bus of gawking Asians comes lurching down a country that was never intended to hold huge vehicles, and I always think that, if Norman Rockwell was still alive, he would paint a picture capturing the beautiful humor of how I look at them, and they look at me.

It is truly beautiful to live here, even if I am old and it is a sort of end. I am grateful for a final fall when the leaves are slow to drift down, even if it is but a respite before a terrible winter. Life has quite enough hardship as it is, and we should not feel guilty when a quieter and more lovely time ambles by.

When I was walking through the gorgeous landscape, across the rustling carpet of gold and crimson leaves, vivid against the sunlit grass, I entered a sunlit grove of trees where the forest floor was striped with the long shadows of autumn. Besides the long stripes made by shadows there were also long, straight stripes of moss, with a small pile of stones at the southern end of each stripe, with the moss vivid in the sunshine which now invaded a glade that had been shaded and moist all summer long.

I paused to wonder at these odd stripes of green moss, flat against the brown forest floor.  Briefly I wondered what on earth could have made them. Then the Sherlock Holmes in my skull abruptly understood they were toppled trees, with a root-ball of dirt and stone at their ends, that had lain on the ground and grown mossy, and final rotted away to flatness, with only the moss remaining, and only a flat pile of stones to show where the root ball once was. Because the trees that grew up among these fallen trees were now roughly 60 years old, I judged the prior grove was flattened in 1954. Hurricane Carol must have flattened all those trees, back when I was only one year old.

I looked around and tried to envision how the scene must have looked, when Carol roared through and flattened the forest in thirty minutes.  What a mess! All the trees down, south to north, with jumbles of dirt made by root-balls, and the scent of torn, green leaves a stink in the hot sunshine.

When I was young I bewailed the fact we never seemed to get hurricanes in New England any more. Now I understand that, midst the hardship of my life, in some ways I’ve been blessed by luck.   People who came before me knew no such luck, and had to display a fortitude I know little about, after Carol.

Today I took some time to be thankful for the luck I’ve lived through, and also to pray that, should this coming winter ask me to display some fortitude, I can match the fortitude of those who came before.