We had hopes of a summer rainstorm, as a coastal low did not head out to sea, but instead curved northwest off the tip of Cape Cod and into the Gulf of Maine.
Indeed, the forecast all day was for rain, yet in an uncanny manner it never fell. As the weak low came north some fairly robust rain showers came across Massachusetts Bay from the east, but the moment they hit the shore they vanished from the radar map. We saw purple clouds pass over, but they were flirts, and didn’t give us a kiss. Only when they hit the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont did uplift cause them to unleash rains. This was insult to injury for we not only got rains to our east but also to our west.
As the weak storm moved up into the Gulf of Maine our winds shifted to the northeast, and all those showers you can see up in Maine in the above map started to be pushed down towards us. Yet again they dried up as they approached. Only the showers that hugged the coast retained enough moisture to give the south shore of Boston a few sprinkles.
It almost seems that the very dryness of our landscape discourages the uplift that brings about rain. Or perhaps the uplift does occur but is full of bone-dry air that squelches rain. In any case, that is my final attempt to be scientific. For when drought gets this extreme you tend to drift towards superstition, and the desire to burn witches.
Who do I blame? I blame the voters of Boston. They are the ones who brought this punishment from God upon us. Me? I’m an innocent bystander. I just happen to live too close to Boston. Maybe I’m just across an imaginary line, in New Hampshire, but imaginary lines don’t make good walls, when it comes to stopping a drought.
Whew! I’m in a rough situation! The only way to stop this drought, and get some rain for my garden, is to go into Massachusetts and convince those voters to choose differently. I’m not looking forward to such a task, for it is said (not in any scripture I know about) that, “If Democrats listened to reason there would be no Democrats”.
Likely I’m not up to such a task. Likely I should just pray.
Even the weeds are shriveling, and grass
On the lawns is brown, and when walked upon
It crunches. The sun's starting to harass
With its too-friendliness. I look to dawn
Hoping for gloom, but all I get is cheer.
Some lesson's being taught, and I've a hunch
It's to do with when I prayed skies would clear
When sick of rain. Now that the grass goes "crunch"
Dare I complain my prayer saw answer?
I know the danger of drought, how one butt
Dropped careless can release that orange dancer
Who makes her own wind, how both mansion and hut
Become mere ash. Did I pray for this doom?
I only know I'm now praying for gloom.
The curious sun lifts and peeks under
The river's morning mists, and gloom is lit
By bright fog. The day promises thunder
And heat, but my stressed, worry-wart wit
Is hushed by soft silence. My wife hums
A hymn to herself, reading her Bible,
And I just smile, look at my lazy thumbs,
And then lift my gaze to gulp an eyeful
Of beauty. This has been here all along
But I just didn't see it. In movies
The actors never notice the theme song
But now I hear the light in morning leaves.
Why worry if my uncharged cellphone dies
When I've got a call straight from the skies?
Some of the most constructive time I spend with small children at my Childcare is time that is not “organized”. It has no specific “curriculum” other than “hanging out”. Basically, the kids just tag along as I potter about doing chores in my usual disorganized manner. Sometimes they help me, but usually not.
I tend to be hit by a non-stop stream of questions, and sometimes I answer them seriously, and sometimes with an absurd answer, and sometimes with an answer that becomes so long and elaborate that the children start drifting away.
As I potter about I often stop to pull a few random weeds, and each time a child will ask “What are you doing?” After answering, “pulling a few random weeds” the first hundred times, during the early days of the Childcare over a decade ago, I got a bit fed up, and began answering in a spurious manner, just to entertain myself by watching how the children responded. For example, I might answer, “making a fudge cookie.” Some children would look at me with owlish innocence, while others would think a bit and then a slow smile would spread across their faces and they’d exclaim, “You’re fooling us!”
Rather than slowing the onslaught of dumb questions, giving facetious answers increased the questions, because the kids liked some of the absurd answers I’d come up with. And I confess I rather liked it myself. It could make dull weeding a time of jocular hilarity, if I stated that I pulled a certain weed because it had magic powers and could turn my dog into an elephant. Sometimes we’d even sidetrack over to the dog to see if the herb worked. When it didn’t, I’d scratch my head and say, “That’s odd. Elephants look just like dogs, today.”
Of course, I had to take care to judge the nature of the child. Some children were totally trusting, and I’d need to make sure they knew I was joking, or they’d be misinformed. One time I misinformed a gullible child without intending to, and he came in one morning and folded his arms and greeted me with the challenging statement, “My Dad says there’s no such thing as walking trees.” Other children were simply serious by nature and didn’t like jokes. However, I was usually surprised by the adroit ability children had (and have) to enter into nonsense. The world of make-believe is second nature for many children.
My wife didn’t always approve of my ability to get children “stirred up”, because she felt I was not so good at getting them to be serious again. I disagreed, but she said my way of getting things back under control involved too much growling.
Anyway, after more than a decade just hanging out with the kids, (and getting paid for it), I am very certain children absorb like sponges, when they hang out with pottering old men. They are not merely learning a slew of factoids but are learning social skills such as how to tell a joke, and how to challenge a person who may be pulling their leg. Maybe they learn how to spot a liar, which is unfortunately an important skill to have in this fallen, modern world. Perhaps most important of all, they, by being outside so much with a person who loves the outdoors, learn how complex and amazing nature is. The green things are more than “plants” and the wiggly things are more than “bugs.” “Plants” and “bugs” turn from two nouns to a hundred interacting species, and the kids get to increase their vocabulary by a hundred in a single summer.
Some might say all this could be done by watching videos indoors, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Also, there is no predicting how the children will react to the so-called curriculum of a setting, both individually and as a group. Two years ago, I could not keep the kids away from the garden’s patch of edible podded peas; this year the children were relatively indifferent, only occasionally munching a few. In like manner, most kids don’t mind watching me pick the potato bugs from the potatoes, but dislike actually touching the bugs, especially the slimy larvae, and they are in no hurry to help me. Yet there was one particular boy who just loved waging war on potato bugs. He would plead with me to be allowed to do the job. I’d set him to it, and he’d easily spend an happy hour in the sunshine, moving down the long row meticulously removing the bugs.
Some tasks, such as digging the potatoes, are always a hit, and I have to ration the plants to make sure everyone gets a turn experiencing the delight of digging up a treasure:
So, I suppose “digging potatoes” could count as an official “curriculum”, and as something you could put down on paper in the manner bureaucrats prefer, as a scheduled “activity” of the Childcare, but to me that seems more like an exception than a rule.
For example, in the process of seeing the noun “bird” divide into numerous species the kids tend to scrutinize various birds and see things that simply can’t be matched by videos. This is not to say that I might not turn to a YouTube video to let the kids hear a particular birdsong when that particular bird is refusing to sing, but there is nothing like the real thing.
The other day it was very hot and humid, and I sought out the deepest shade I could find with a cluster of grouchy small girls. I had only a short time before they could rush to the pool, and then their petulance would be cured, but sometimes twenty minutes can seem an eternity. It was while we were in the deep shade that I pointed out a catbird. Catbirds are very curious, investigative birds, and, though they always try to always keep a bough or cluster of leaves between you and them, they can come quite close as they investigate what we humans are up to. This bird came close enough to distract the girls from their crabbiness. They exclaimed it was “practically tame”, and then, because I said it was called a catbird because it had a squeaky, scratchy caw something like a cat’s meow, all the girls started meowing to the bird. I said, “Not like that; more like this,” and did my best rendition of a catbird’s meow. All the girls began copying me and then, with perfect timing, the catbird hopped onto a nearby twig and showed us how to meow properly. All the girls looked utterly amazed, looking at each other with eyes round as owls, and then burst into gleeful laughter.
That can’t be matched by a video, though I’ll try:
An even better example involved an eastern phoebe.
We have several families of phoebes nesting in outbuildings around the farm, and I likely have bored the older boys pointing them out as they hop about in my garden, praising phoebes for eating so many bugs. Phoebe have a very distinctive way of twitching their tails up and down as they sit on a fencepost, and also an interesting way of sometimes fluffing the feathers on top of their heads into a small crest, and I’ve likely bored the boys pointing that out as well.
I had a group of particularly jaded five-, six- and seven-year-old boys around me one hot morning last week. I wasn’t actually “on the schedule”, but I could see that they were giving a member of my staff trouble as she tried to organize the smaller children for a hike. All the children must be swabbed with repellant and sunscreen, and mischievous boys can complicate the process, so I asked them if they’d like to come in the garden and see the first ripe broccoli and cauliflower. They always seem eager to hang out with me (if not to help), so they came over, and a few accepted samples of broccoli, while some announced they hated broccoli. I rambled away in my gravelly voice, saying some people have tastebuds that that taste the bitterness in broccoli, while others don’t, and then telling the old joke about the difference between green broccoli and green boogers being that small children won’t eat broccoli, and then pointed out a phoebe hopping in the dirt down at the end of the row. I was moving on to saying broccoli was in the cabbage family, and I was likely boring the boys by pointing how the nearby cabbage and cauliflower and Brussel sprouts all looked the same, when suddenly the phoebe began flying towards us.
The bird flew clumsily and erratically, bumping into plants on either side. My first thought was that it must be sick, perhaps with the dreaded avian ‘flu, but I had no time to talk, for the bird swooped up and came to an awkward landing directly on top of one of the boy’s baseball cap. Only then did I say, “It is a fledgling. Just learning to fly.”
Meanwhile the fledgling was looking about with a rather alarmed expression. You could almost hear it thinking, “Holy crap! Look where I landed.” Then it bolted, flying straight into the side of an above-ground-pool and crashing to the ground. The boys rushed over and formed a circle around the bird as I said, “Don’t touch it! Let’s see what it will do!”
The bird seemed to be shaking off the effects of a concussion (do birds hear birdies?) and then it looked up at all the faces looking down, and again you could imagine it thinking “Holy Crap!” It panicked and shot straight up around fifteen feet, before it wobbled away to the peak of the roof of a nearby shed. The boys were all laughing and commenting when another phoebe came gracefully flitting over and landed by the first phoebe’s side. Without any prompting from me one of the boys exclaimed, “It’s his mother!” whereupon all the other boys began cheering, “It’s the mother! It’s the mother!” almost like they were spectators at a horse race. Then a staff member called them off to hike, and they rushed away to tell her what they had seen.
I knew I could claim no credit for “showing” the boys anything, and just looked up to the sky and was thankful. It’s amazing what you can see by doing nothing.
Off the beaten path long trampled by those
Thirsting for fortune and hungry for fame
I sit by myself and twirl summer's rose
And wonder if being unknown is a shame.
I don't make fame queen, nor the dollar king,
But am like a boy who has escaped school,
And classmate's shaming, and teacher's hollering.
I forget how it feels to feel like a fool.
I just bask in sunshine like it is a bath
Washing away aches of schooling's cruel wrath.
Though I'm just sitting I progress a path
Which adds up to healing. You do the math.
Soon bells will toll, and they'll resume classes
But I'll not be schooled by roomfuls of asses.
It seems the United States is in a state of being denied, wherein what people want is not what they are getting. In a sense it is like fasting. People hunger and thirst for righteousness, but never seem to be fed.
Fasting is supposedly spiritual, when it isn’t done out of vanity, merely to improve appearances, but rather is done to break our addiction to worldly cravings.
I must confess I was never big on fasting. When young I had a revved-up metabolism and couldn’t put on weight even when I tried, (and I did try, attempting to increase my bulk for football.) Having this sort of metabolism makes you into a sort of eating machine at times, which doesn’t look all that spiritual. Yet then I might go a surprising period of time on nothing but coffee and cigarettes (and sometimes whisky) utterly indifferent to food, because I was “a writer”. (I will confess I learned to add lots and lots of powdered milk to my coffee, so I suppose the milk kept hunger at bay.) However, after one of these spells of being “a writer”, I’d be hit by a ravenous appetite and completely disgrace myself, in spiritual terms, by wolfing an entire large pizza like it was a cracker.
Therefore, I am no one to seek out as an authority on self-denial, and how it benefits the spiritual aspirant. To be quite honest, a lot of my “writing” is me complaining about how I don’t get what I want. (I am rather good at such complaining, if I do say so myself.)
Oddly, even though I never really sought self-denial, I did manage to wind up in some situations where I was a “suffering poet”. Largely this was because I was offensive. I didn’t mean to be offensive (most of the time) but there is something offensive about taking the attitude that you are special and should get what you want, especially when what you want is for everyone else to go to work nine to five as you stay home smoking and drinking coffee (sometimes spiked with whisky) being “a writer”. In any case, let it suffice to say I did not get what I wanted, and people made me feel less than welcome, when they didn’t just throw me out on my ear. This placed me in a position of self-denial even though that was the last thing I wanted.
One crisis I got myself into involved leaving New England in a sort of self-imposed exile, at age 27. I had offended just about everyone, including myself, and just packed all that seemed valuable into a tiny 1974 Toyota with a 1200 cc engine and headed off into the cruel world. I slept in that tiny vehicle fairly often, which I suppose is self-denial. And, (as even exiled Romans such as Ovid and Cicero admitted), exile had its benefits. Self-denial can uplift the spiritual seeker.
In any case, while thinking about the current suffering occurring in the United States, I recalled a poem I wrote before I left New England on my exile. In Rome people often accepted exile as a way to escape a more severe punishment, and the old poem was about the punishment (self-inflicted) I was enduring before I left. Something about America’s current suffering reminded me of that past, and I went searching for the old work in my yellowed papers.
Found it! It is an unusual poem for me, in that I reworked it several times. The first draft was from November 1978, the second draft from July 1979, and the final draft was from October 1980. In other words, this poem expressed the passion of a young man in his mid-twenties.
Anger's a sabre thrust into my heart;
My heart is a scabbard of pain.
I would draw out the long, bloody blade
And see all my enemies slain,
But blood is a terrible stain.
My fingertips shake with the strain.
Foolish men fawn for a dollar a day
And artists are driven to hiding.
Generals are riding fat horses that bray,
And therapists yawn at confiding
While counting up dollars deciding
What beaches to ruin residing
Within aluminum siding,
Then they go back to their guiding.
Where is the handle? I must draw the sword
And see that the dragon is thoroughly gored,
Yet how can I haul out that head-hacking blade
When the charger you sold me so recently brayed?
Sorrow, sweet sorrow, is clotting my throat
With stabbing I never could swallow.
I want to bail out. We're in the same boat.
Excuses have always been hollow.
Where is the scalpel a surgeon would use
And where is the surgeon who knows how to choose?
The enemy has to be slain
But blood is a terrible stain.
My fingertips shake with the strain.
Besides being a fairly good indication that I chose correctly, in deciding to depart a situation which was driving me bonkers over 40 years ago, the poem traces some depths of feeling one may experience, when the situation that is driving them bonkers is difficult to escape. And the current situation in the United States is driving people bonkers. It is also difficult to escape. People who are nowhere nearly as offensive as I was in my mid-twenties may be feeling like I felt, all those years ago.
This makes me wonder if there is any advice I can offer.
In one sense I have no advice. I have never figured out how to make the people driving me bonkers stop doing it. They are what they are. The only thing I can stop is to stop myself. I’m the only one I can change.
In 1980 the biggest change I made was to stop retreating to my mother’s basement, when I felt hurt, and instead to retreat in an outward direction. It seemed a very brave thing I was doing, but even little birds do it, when they leave the nest. My departure was actually retarded, when you consider I was in my mid-twenties, and few took it all that seriously, considering I had “left home” many times before. Few knew how serious I was, and that I was truly gone for good.
Leaving the nest is self-denial because one is denying themself the very real comforts offered by a mother. Such comforts are provided in a nigh instinctual way and can be addictive. For example, my dirty socks would vanish and then reappear cleaned in the top drawer of my bureau neatly balled. This may seem like a little thing, but it never happened again, and, after forty years, recalling such kindness makes me nostalgic. But at the time I took it for granted and it made me lazy, dependent, and disgusted with myself. Moving from my mother’s basement was like leaving a dank dungeon and soaring into the open sky. Where is the self-denial in that? (I suppose it is in the fact the open sky can get stormy, and then one wants to head home.)
In the above example it can be seen that self-denial is closely associated with freedom. It is part of a tension which forever exists between security and freedom, wonderfully portrayed by a couple of Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell which appeared on consecutive weeks: (Notice the face is the same.)
In some ways this tension is as simple as the fact we get up in the morning and go back to bed in the evening. Life involves alternating desires. However, the factor I want to focus on is the self-denial.
In order to be a sort of yogi and to qualify as “spiritual” the self-denial must encompass both sides of an alternating duality; IE: when you want to get up you must stay in bed, and when you want to stay in bed you must get up. This sort of “fasting” is annoying as heck. It is a swift way to turn even bright spirits into sourpusses. It can only be done when the yogi involved is fiercely determined to reach some preconceived transcendental state, and, even then, is full of hazards.
I did try some of this self-denial when in my twenties and I learned something of the hazards. It is a bit like enduring the pain of jogging to get yourself in shape. One problem I ran into was that I tended to lose my desire and to see my resolution fade, and to in a sense “fall off the wagon”. (This was not like falling off a horse, wherein you get back on where you fell off, but more like the game of snakes-and-ladders; you go slithering down a slippery slope and have to start over from the very bottom.) Then a second problem was that the very few times I did bungle into the periphery of some sort of transcendental state it tended to scare my socks off; I wanted to run away and be normal again. Lastly was that, (most of the time), such self-denial wrung the joy from my life and left me a sourpuss, and a crank. This was so far from the nirvana I was seeking that it actually was what propelled me from my mother’s basement.
This brings me to the subject of what was propelling me. I felt as if I was to some degree out of control. This seemed irresponsible, but to some degree we cannot take control of everything. Some days the fish simply are not biting, and no amount of yelling at the water can change their minds. And the same is true of hitchhiking. Some days the traffic will not stop, and neither yelling nor smirking convinces anyone. It is at such times one finds themselves muttering to the sky, and to the possibility of a Power besides ourselves, who controls.
As a young intellectual I strove to be logical, and to doubt the existence of anything which could not be scientifically replicated, but my Atheism was troubled by a series of events which could not be replicated but could also not be denied, for they saved my life. Midst my “bad luck” were odd experiences of “good luck”. Eventually this led to a series of inner crises and I “got religion”, which made me in some ways even more offensive than before. I was even more likely to sit around writing as others went to work when I thought God would care for me. But eventually I became aware God didn’t automatically gratify my desires, and was as libel, and in fact more libel, to utilize self-denial. For example, the only time God washed my socks and put them in the top drawer was when God manifested as Mom. The rest of the time the socks stayed dirty.
It is upsetting to some when God doesn’t respond to prayers like He is some sort of vending machine, wherein you put in your prayer and the answered prayer plops out at the bottom. After such disappointment, one must take matters into their own hands. This is fine when the problem is dirty socks; one simply learns to wash their own socks. However, it is not so easy when things get out of control, and your best efforts come up empty.
In my case, (along the lines of fishing when the fish weren’t biting, and hitchhiking when nobody stops,) coming-up-empty often occurred when looking for a job. Many times, I was one of those fellows who waits outside an unemployment office hoping for spot labor. I didn’t feel in control of my destiny, especially on those days when there was no work, and, on those days, God heard a fair amount of grumbling.
I well know the temptation one then feels to be corrupted; God may say you’ll earn no money that day, but one is tempted to rob a bank.
To be honest I suppose I must reluctantly confess that I have succumbed to temptations to some degree.
As a teen I sowed some very wild oats, but once I “got religion” my moral failures never progressed much beyond smoking and drinking too much, a few failed romances, and some petty theft, (and I did repay the market I shoplifted cigarettes from). While I did feel the urges to be corrupt, they never won me over to the degree one sees among politicians in “The Swamp.” I tested the waters of corruption and was repelled.
I’m not sure why this was the case. It could be that I simply wasn’t deemed worthy of spending the time, by those who do the tempting. One good thing about being flat broke is that few see you as being worthy of seduction.
It also could be I was protected. After all, once I “got religion” I had given my life to the Lord (to some degree), which means I had admitted I couldn’t control life and needed help. And what happens next?
Once you have such a Superman watching over you, perhaps you get protected even when you don’t want to be protected, as was the case when certain gorgeous women walked by. When lonely I was not at all inclined towards self-denial, but had to endure it. The Good Shepherd was guiding his sheep, even if the sheep was a black sheep.
Eventually it sunk into me that a lot of the self-denial I was experiencing was actually good for me. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s I endured a fair amount of mockery from even my closest friends for being something of a prude. Then, starting around 1982, a lot of the fellow “writers” who had mocked me started dropping dead of AIDS (which was a reletively swift and unpleasant way to die back then, with no cure). Then self-denial didn’t seem like such a misfortune, and indeed more like a miracle.
Of course, I always wanted the miracles to be more pampering. One story I often tell involves a Christmas miracle. I was five dollars short on my rent and a green, rumpled piece of paper came blowing across a parking lot. As I stooped to pick it up, I could see it was money, and was fairly certain it was a five, which it was. Even though I felt a warm glow all over I felt comfortable enough with my Creator to joke, “Couldn’t You have managed a hundred?” But I’ve heard it said that when you are thirsty God gives water, not lemonade, and to me this has seemed true.
This brings me back to the subject of self-denial, and the fact I seemed to get more self-denial than gratification, which must mean that, if the Good Shepherd is in charge, there is more good in not getting what you want than in getting what you want.
Why should this be?
I think this is true because getting what you desire seldom satisfies. You usually just want more. We tend to be creatures of habit, and the way to freedom from addiction is not to get what you are addicted to. This is not to say some habits are not good habits: When a bad habit enslaves us we tend to call it “being stuck in a rut” however a better habit is described as being “in the groove”, but even good habits limit our freedom, and I think God wants us free.
It helps me to understand how habits enslave when I describe a “desire” as a “craving”. Craving sounds more beastly, and even undesirable (which is wonderfully ambiguous, as you are saying desire is not what you should desire.) People who can admit they “desire” are less likely to confess they “crave.” But, if you don’t think craving controls you, just hold your breath for sixty seconds. Soon breathing, which you ordinarily don’t even think about, becomes the only thing you can think about.
Craving can be seen as a distraction. It is like when you have a job to do, but just then a very attractive person walks by. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, nor what your sexual preference is, you are distracted. And from God’s perspective, humanity is a herd of distracted cats. He is the only One able to herd them.
One thing God seems to seek to do is to free us from our cravings. And it turns out that such freedom is far more likely to occur when we don’t get what we desire. For example, when even the most zealous suiter is disdained over and over, and is finally arrested as a stalker, the zeal must seek a different channel, even if it doesn’t completely fade like the final ember of a fire. Typically, the suiter settles for second best, and rather than a “lover” becomes a “friend”. If they can’t be number one in the beloved’s life, and can’t actually massage the beloved’s shoulders, they must settle for making this a better world for the beloved to live in, by uplifting other people they formerly wouldn’t bother with.
Having our desire frustrated is painful, but it frees us from needing to have a specific desire fulfilled in a specific way. One thing I have noticed in people who have been through great suffering is that they are less demanding and are more able to be happy with less. They are satisfied with water and don’t demand lemonade. Rather than restless they know more of peace. Rather than post-traumatic-stress they know post-traumatic-resignation.
I have had trouble being resigned because I am a battler and tend to be more inspired by pep talks, like Winston Churchhill’s famous “Never Surrender” speech when England was threatened by Hitler. I also liked the prophet Issaih’s defiance of the Assyrians when they besieged Jerusalem. I did not like the prophet Jeramiah’s advice when the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem a few decades later, for his advice was, “Surrender, for this time you are up against God’s Will. You must accept the punishment of captivity and exile.”
Surrender is a bad thing when it is a surrender to slavery, but God does not want us to be slaves. God is the only One worthy of surrendering to, for He knows best when our desires should be thwarted and when they should be gratified, and how best to move us to a point where our minds are unclouded by cravings, and our hearts are free to love.
One interesting thing about the relatively poor people who the “elite” call “deplorables” is that the poor seem more able to put their own desires aside. A factoid which never made sense to me is that the poor give more to charity than the rich, in terms of a percentage of their income. (In fact, some rich will not give to charity unless they themselves profit in some way, which is not charity at all.) How can this be true?
It has occurred to me that the poor, without the slightest wish to be yogis, have had to see their desires denied over and over again, until the habit of craving is worn down, and they no longer expect gratification. Then, because their minds are not clotted with cravings, they are more able to hear their hearts. The poor workingman’s heart defies his intellect’s banker’s-budget, when he impulsively hands half his sandwich to a hungry, onlooking child. In this and a thousand other small ways the so-called “deplorable” are not deplorable at all, and in fact are more loving than, and are spiritually superior to, the so-called “elite.”
Blessed are the poor. Because they do not require gratification to be happy, they are often happier than billionaires. They live in a world wherein quaint values the elite call “old fashioned”, but which are actually ancient and eternal, rule. So maybe not getting your desires gratified is a good thing.
The elite, who are constantly sating their desires for wealth and power and fame and sex and drugs, discover gratification does not lead to freedom, and instead become more and more addicted to their desires. In spiritual terms this insidiously matures into a colossal mistake, for even when they imagine they are enslaving others they in fact are enslaving themselves. Even when they think they are smarter they are in fact becoming increasingly ignorant. Even when they think they see clearly, they are blinded by desire. And even when they think they gain control they are losing self-control; in seeking power they become spiritually powerless.
Hopefully you see where my thought is leading. It is a complete contradiction of the values which rule the elite. It denies that which the American mainstream media attempts to say is the only sensible way to think.
The foxes push saints from pulpits to preach
To the chickens, but their sly idealism
Is cynicism. They actually teach
The opposite of what they say. To them
Hypocrisy's second nature. They don't know
How fresh and clean Truth is. They cannot see
How blind they are. They think it wise to sow
Thistles, and create their own tragedy.
See them now, puffed in pulpits, so sure that
They're collecting dainties, like gamblers sweep
Winnings from a table, chewing pure fat
That drips from chins. Meanwhile chickens keep
Their distance: In fact, the pews are now empty.
The outfoxed fox snarls, for he can't tempt me.
Tired of this anger I'm carrying
I turn to You, my Lord, and plead my case:
Mankind creates divorces out of marrying
And turns the sweetest blush into disgrace.
Your generosity is met with greed.
Your colossal kindness met with hate.
They snatch away the milk that babies need
And dream their tyranny will make them great.
Am I to sit and turn the other cheek?
Must goodness zip its lip as hellfires singe?
How is it You in silence will not speak
As bigmouths blare the bull that makes me cringe?
I pray my suffering's like that of fasting.
I hurt today for joy that's everlasting.
Let me not spoil these lavishly lush days
With talk of how long days now grow shorter.
Too often I've missed the One worth the praise,
Seeking woes like the worst news reporter.
Hound-dogging I've howled, sniffing the cold trails
Of how every summer leads to winter,
As if time is proof Mother Nature fails
For soft water hardens. Indeed, she hints her
Seasons must change, and so a man must toil
Gathering food and fuel, but that does not make
A single day less. Anointed by oil
We are blessed, though our muscles may ache.
Lift my eyes. Lift my heart. Lift my dour face
As my cup runneth over with midsummer grace.
When I was a small boy in the 1950’s our next-door neighbor was a man who struck me as a bit spooky, likely because he lived a frightening life. He was somehow involved with designing a missile which was supposed to blow up Russian missiles as they approached with an atomic warhead, an antimissile-missile. He therefore knew too much about the doom which superpowers flirted with at that time, and how close we were to war, and the fact his factory was a prime target, and that he himself might be a target of the KGB. Lastly, he was forbidden to talk to anyone about what likely scared him. He had good reason to walk around looking spooked. But, as a merciless child, I just found him creepy.
One habit he had was to walk about his lush, green yard hunched over, a weed digger in hand, peering about like a hawk for dandelions. He was death on dandelions, and his yard was nothing but grass. He would look in dismay over our yard, which held very little grass, and was largely trampled dirt, white clover, and dandelions. His dismay was greatest when our dandelions went to seed, and the seeds became airborne, heading towards his pristine lawn.
In my eyes they looked like little parachutes, but in his eyes, they probably approached like Russian missiles. I felt like, if looks could kill, I’d be dead, though he probably was directing is murderous gaze at our lawn and not at me.
In any case I grew up feeling there was something not quite right about people who fussed too much about dandelions on their lawns, and in the 1960’s, in the emerald suburbs of Boston, I felt I was in a distinct minority. For some reason people bought into the belief a lawn was contaminated if it included anything but grass.
I was not entirely against this belief, for I could make jingling silver dimes and quarters if I rid people’s lawns of weeds such as dandelions, but I also couldn’t muster much loathing towards the dandelions I pulled, due to my father. As a doctor, he was aware many weeds have uses in medicine, and he was always curious about such medicinal benefits. He might pluck a dandelion leaf and say, “This stuff is like bitter lettuce and is loaded with vitamins; folk used to eat it in the spring to recover from a long winter; they say it is good for your guts.”
Or he might look at another disdained weed such as plantain:
And he’d say, “This stuff is loaded with vitamins too, but tastes a bit mushroomy. When I was a kid boys used to chew it and smear the chewed cud on cuts and rashes, saying it made healing faster. I wonder if there’s any truth to that?”
In any case, I had a different attitude towards a weedy lawn than most suburbanites, and in the 1970’s tended to side with the tree-huggers who were violently opposed to pesticides and herbicides, but who also were generally too poor to live in suburbs and have any lawns. The people with lawns kept seeking the perfect lawn, which was a lawn free of any plant but grass. This eventually led to weedkillers such as “Roundup”, which may or may not have caused cancer in gardeners and suburbanites, (and has made many lawyers wealthy).
Rather than exploiting this lucrative longing for the perfect lawn, I, as a landscaper, tended to attempt to convince people to skip the bother of seeking such perfection, claiming Mother Nature knew what to grow and grew it, and it wasn’t wise to mess with Mother Nature.
One time a customer was bothered by moss. I charged her only twenty a week to mow her lawn, for the grassy part was small and the mossy part never really needed mowing, except for now and again because some invasive grass might send up a few strangling strands. But then the customer, who tended to worry too much, began to press me to work more, promising to pay more. When I explained the moss grew because her beautiful shade trees made so much shade it created a habitat more suited for moss than for grass, she worried I might just be lazy and making up excuses to avoid extra work.
I had to then be careful, for it is not good practice to offend a customer. I shrugged and said maybe she was right. I would look into finding a grass that grew well in the shade. If I found one, I could then rip up the most beautiful moss lawn in town and attempt to replace it with an ordinary grass lawn. Lastly, I added it would likely cost hundreds of dollars to do; far more than the twenty per week I ordinarily charged. Then I promised to get back to her. (I had hopes the way I said “the most beautiful moss lawn in town” might make her think twice.) Her response was to say she’d be making inquiries of her own.
When I stopped in to mow her lawn the next week, (far too busy to have done the investigating I had hoped to do for her), she greeted me with a surprisingly broad smile, and told me she had asked a friend about moss in lawns. Much to her surprise she discovered her friend had paid a landscaper to make her front lawn be moss. It had cost her friend ten thousand dollars. I laughed and said my customer’s much-larger lawn must be at least a twenty-thousand-dollar lawn, (which is what we called it, from then on). Rather than being embarrassed by her mossy lawn my customer became proud of it.
This only added to my feeling that all-grass lawns were merely a fad and fashion, fleeting and due to a copycat tendency among suburbanites, wherein somebody somewhere says something is “politically correct”, and everyone else follows without asking why.
Now I’m old and run a Childcare whose playground is thick sod enriched by two hundred years of manure from farm animals. It is likely 50% grass, but much grass is not lawn grass, but rather is rank grass like witch-grass, or seasonal like crabgrass. The rest of the lawn is perhaps 30% white clover, and 20% an assortment of many plants which can withstand mowing. This includes the aforementioned dandelions and plantain, but also many swift wildflowers which can survive mowing, though their flowers can’t.
This brings me to an interesting detail in many old poems, written back in the day when mowing was done by sickles and scythes. Often it is merely a passing mention, an aside, but it adds a certain mood or flavor to the poem. It is that, in the business of cutting grass, the grass-cutter avoids cutting a blooming (or even merely budding) bunch of wildflowers. In “Ode to Autumn” John Keats mentions,
...While thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers...
Now, rather than using a sickle or scythe, I whiz about in a rider mower. I might not be able to write like those old masters, but I can mow better than they, and also, I can spare flowers with the best of them.
This is especially true of daisies. A few years back I noted their foliage is very different from the look of other plants on the lawn, and that, by swerving my mower, I could avoid cutting a patch of two. This led to a patch or two of daisies waving in the wind, for a few weeks, before they became brown and ugly and I mowed them down and the lawn reverted to a lawn in its entirety.
This experiment was such a success I expanded it. This was partially due to the fact the daisies spread, and partially due to the fact I left areas too small to be edged by a big rider mower for edging with a smaller hand mower. Rather than two patches I wound up with many more.
This was wildly successful for two reasons. The first is that it looks very nice, for a couple of weeks, after which it starts to look very ugly, and I mow it all down. During the two weeks it looks nice I receive many compliments for flowers I did not plant.
But the second reason is because the lawn, being the playground of a Childcare, is full of children, and it is fascinating to see them interact with the daisies.
Early on I do teach them not to rip off the buds, explaining they soon will be flowers, but once the flowers are blooming there are so many daisies that I let the children pick all they want. Children seem to like this. They get to pick blooms without being scolded for it.
Also, because the daisies grow in patches, and I use the hand mower to cut pathways between the patches, the children skip up and through and around the daisies inventing all sorts of imaginative scenarios only young minds can envision.
Daisies become a wonderful playground toy, better (and cheaper) than any “education stimulating” plastic object on the market, and good for my teachers as well, for they have only to stand back and watch. The daisies are the curriculum. I also like to just stand back and watch the children in the sun.
What is interesting to me is that rather than something I did, this is due to what I didn’t do. Where I could have mowed, I did not mow.
What shall my mind dwell upon? Gas hit $5.00/gallon today, more than twice what we paid last year, but also it was a beautiful day with breezes of a perfect temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Perfect weather for hilling potatoes, as the children at my Childcare were in especially good moods.
This is a sonnet of transition from worry to wonder.
Annoying annoyance will not be halted
By pleading reason, for fools have defaulted
On linkage to reason, to joys exalted.
They suck lips of pain with wounds ever salted. Like whining Skilsaws that scream all the nightThey insist resting is never quite right.
They spoil even moments of simple delight
Like bad teeth that make you flinch as you bite.
I turn to the skies and sigh, "Father, Please!
Send us some peace! Bless us with Your ease.
Like children content in the shade of the trees
Let us feel filled by the hush of a breeze.
What use are minds when their noise will not cease?
Grant us simplicity steeped in Your peace."
Running a Childcare makes me especially aware of what every parent is sadly made conscious of: What strikes an older person as beautiful and worth sharing make strike the young as exceedingly disagreeable. And the young may become disagreeable in response. For example, when the parents of the cartoon character Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes” take him out to see the pristine beauty of a fresh fall of snow, Calvin doesn’t appreciate it.
At some point I decided it was more enjoyable to garden alone. In 2019 I had my most successful garden ever, simply because I stopped inflicting gardening upon people who have the sane opinion that dirt is dirty. I had more fun, they had more fun, yet at the time of the harvest I had second thoughts, which I go into, in an old, 2019 post:
The long-winded post contained a sonnet which is sneakily revolutionary as it is only 13 lines when they are supposed to have 14.
I wish they were as old-fashioned as I.
Though frost cuts, I heap a heating harvest,
Yet I no longer even bother to try
To get them to sweat, though reaping’s blessed.
Today I hauled a hundred pounds of squash
To my larder. For me that’s four hundred
Meals. But I know they’d, with piggy squeals, quash
All joy from my harvest, whining they’ve bled
And are wounded, because fall’s frost cuts.
Those who don’t plant don’t know why they’re fed.
Their fine complaints are but signs they lack guts.
They think they make sense, while making me groan
For no man likes to reap harvests alone.
To spare you the effort of following my meandering mind down all the rabbit holes of convoluted logic, the post wound up concluding that no man is an island, and I should find a way to avoid gardening alone. It also confessed I saw no foreseeable way of doing so.
This seems especially true of weeding. I like weeding, but many suggests this proves I’ve gone completely bonkers in my old age.
Why do I like it? Perhaps it is because, as you age, the fingers are still nimble, (providing you are spared arthritis), when the rest of you huffs and puffs doing what once was quite ordinary.
I once saw a film showing the pianist Artur Rubinstein at age ninety. Always a bit of an exhibitionist, he allowed the film to begin with him getting out of bed, so ancient and stiff he has trouble getting loose enough to stand up and walk, but then he sits at the piano and loosens up his fingers running through a few scales, and then, with startling swiftness, is able to play flowing rhapsodies of music. Probably it isn’t as good as he could play as a young man of seventy, but still it was utterly amazing, and also proof using your fingers doesn’t make you huff and puff. And weeding is using your fingers. It doesn’t make you huff and puff. Furthermore, if I may be so bold, I am a sort of Artur Rubinstein of weeding.
My problem is I plant too much. If I only planted short rows, it wouldn’t be any challenge, but with his Fraudulency, Biden, seeming out to create a famine, short rows are not long enough. But then, if you plant long rows, you create long rows to weed. And this year I am so serious about planting long rows that the weeds are already springing up while I am still planting the long rows.
This is especially true in the case of carrots. Carrots are good keepers, when winter comes around. Ordinarily I wouldn’t need to plant that many. After all, how many plastic, one-pound bags of carrots does my wife buy at the market for us in the course of a winter? Maybe a pound every two weeks? Even if you call our northern winters 24 weeks long and add another 8 weeks until we can harvest our first carrots next year, that’s only 16 pounds. A double-row of eight feet will do. Easy. (Especially if, God willing, I get some huge, half-pound carrots.) But, if Biden has his way, and we all starve to stop Global Warming, I’ll need some extra, for family and friends and church suppers. Therefore I’m starting with four times what I need; thirty-two feet of double-rowed carrots. (If I have time and space I may add a later crop. But, to start, let us see if the first doesn’t kill me.)
The thing about carrots is that they are tiny seeds that produce the feeblest, hair-like seedlings. Meanwhile the weeds grow boisterously, swiftly twice as high and twice as large. Compare a carrot seeding:
And here are weeds:
And here are carrots and weeds squaring off to do battle.
Actually, they don’t square off like that. The above is actually the edge of the weeded area and the non-weeded area. The carrots are hidden by the weeds, in the non-weeded area. Therefore, you must have fingers like Rubinstein and weed very carefully. After selecting the largest weeds, and pulling them, you start to see the carrots underneath, and can pull the smaller weeds.
If you only planted eight feet of carrots the weeds would never get so far ahead of you, but if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, in a gardener sort of way, this is your plight. The fortunate thing is that, although the carrots are tiny, they have deep tap roots, and only a few get torn up as you uproot the larger weeds. (And that actually thins the carrots, which is a later job. First you must help the carrots survive, before you can even get to the point where you worry about thinning.)
This year has been very dry, so my scarce free time has been usurped by having to do what the clouds should do and do better: Water. It is very important to water the tiny carrots for if they get too dry before their tiny roots shoot downward as tap roots, they just die on you. But even as you save them you are watering the weeds.
Then when it did rain, it was thunder rain, which is somehow loaded with nitrogen by cloud-to-cloud lightning. It is wonderful as it causes all your plants to abruptly leap upwards, but horrible because it has the exact same effect on weeds. The earth which looked so brown and weed-free after rototilling abruptly is lush with a kazillion weeds.
It was obvious I needed help, with so many feet of planted plants all getting weedy at once. My daughter and daughter-in-law have been very helpful, but my daughter is about to get married, and I didn’t live so long by telling women weeding is more important than weddings (even if it is.)
Just about every business in town has a help-wanted sign, so finding help from outside seems unlikely. Therefore, my wife suggested I turn to our Childcare staff. I cringed. I didn’t want to offend them. But, to my astonishment, they responded favorably. (Perhaps controlling weeds is easier than controlling children.)
One thing I never expected was for them to be so gracious, as I instructed them. I expected them to behave as if I was asking them to ingest poison, but instead they behaved as if I was Rubinstein teaching them piano. Even my boring sidetracks (into how this weed is edible and the juice of that weed is good for bug-bites) didn’t cause their eyeball to fall out with boredom, but rather they found me fascinating. (I would say it is the difference between a teenager and an adult, but one was a teenager.) We chattered away and I actually found myself enjoying myself. Then I left them to weed alone, and they worked tirelessly under a blazing sun.
They were slower than me, but more painstaking. I tend to leave the smallest weeds, just attacking the big stuff, but they left the carrot patch utterly weed free, and made great headway down the second patch. I’ve never been so ahead of the weeds, at this point.
And just to show I am not one of those exploitive bosses who sits in some office as others do the work, here is that same row of carrots after I got down on my knees and completed the job. (Please note how I used the pulled weeds as mulch.)
This is only one small skirmish in a larger battle, yet it strikes me strangely as a sort of miracle. The weeding not only got done, but it was fun. The girls actually said they liked it.
I don’t know what I am doing differently. Weeding caused my own children to experience post-traumatic stress and likely will cost them a fortune in therapy, just to recover. But this year my employees behave as if I am doing them a favor. (Maybe I should have paid my kids for feeding them.)
This brings me to the bottom line, grubbier than dirt. How much are these carrots going to cost me? Well, that all depends on the price of carrots next fall. At current prices my carrots are a very bad deal, but, if Biden saves the world from Global Warming by having carrots cost a hundred dollars a pound by November, my little patch will be a gold mine.
The “green” agenda of his fraudulency, Biden, is having the consequences which people like me, (people who are dubious [to say the least] about “Global Warming”), have been warning about. We were warning twenty years ago. Ten years ago. Last year.
Basically, we were saying fossil fuels might have a bad side, but they also had a good side. Before we banned them, we should be sure we had a viable alternative, or we would lose the “good side”.
Well, we are losing the “good side”, as Biden does his best to prevent the production of coal, oil and gas. The “good side” was warm houses in winter, cheap fertilizer for our crops, cheap transport of essential goods, mobility of labor at low costs, low costs for the manufacturing of goods, to begin a partial list of benefits, (not mentioning plastics.) Now, with even a small part of that “good side” removed, we are seeing how much more expensive life is.
Is it worth it? At best, using the most biased models, abandoning fossil fuels might decrease the warming of the planet .05 degrees a year. (And there is debate about whether a warmer planet might be a better planet, more like periods of prosperity called “The Medieval Warm Period” and “The Roman Climate Optimum”.)
Now that we are just beginning to feel the pain of Biden’s green agenda, the answer seems to be “this is not worth it.” But, sorry to say, it is too late. Elections have consequences, even if they are rigged, and we now are witnessing the bleep hit the fan. It will get worse before it gets better.
For the trusting individuals who believed Biden was “moderate” I imagine it is a great shock to witness the destruction of the stability Trump had established, and to furthermore realize the destruction reaches levels unseen even in the lifetimes of our great-grandparents. Not that our great-grandparents knew of the modern miracle called “baby formula”; (they used a “wet nurse” instead,) but our great-grandparents never witnessed a government so inept that it manufactured a shortage of wet-nurses. For trusting, suburbanite housewives, (who apparently formed a sold block of Biden voters, women certain Biden was sane,) it is jarring to see he is not.
For trusting people who worked tedious jobs for decades, trusting their pension would mean something, it is a shock to see inflation erode their fixed income. It will be sad if they find it hard to afford heat next winter. It will be sadder if there is no heat to be had, and oil must be rationed.
Me? I lost faith early in life, when it came to authorities, and I had little belief any pension would be worth it. I was certain the bleep would hit the fan decades ago. This freed me from ever needing to stick with a job for the attached pension, for I “knew” the national debt was too high during the time Jimmy Carter was president, and was “certain” the inflation, (which was pretty bad back then), would spiral completely out of control. I was wrong. Some of my friends who had more faith in the system than I did retired at age fifty with fat pensions and have lived comfortable retirements, as I’ve had to go on working, and working, and working.
Now some of those friends, who retired at age fifty, are thinking maybe they need to go back to work at age seventy. That’s how bad the “green energy” inflation is. They look at their bills for lighting their houses and keeping the furnace going, and inflation is 50%. They could handle bills of $500.00, but $1000.00 wreaks their budget, and they consider rejoining the world of a working man. Welcome back.
Me? I’ve gone on working, and working, and working, but never for one boss. I’ve been free. I work for people I like, but, should the rot set in and a boss start to reek, I have always been free to say, “Sorry, Charlie”, and depart. So what if I lost health insurance? I was hale and hearty without it. So what if I lost a potential pension? I was sure the world would never pay the pension when it was due.
Now it seems I was right, after all. Politicians do not respect their elders in the manner scriptures command, and rather look for ways to avoid paying what they promised. Their breaking-of-promises is most ugly when their way of avoiding payments is to exterminate the elderly they promised to pay.
The most obvious and odious example of such filthy behavior was when President Trump made-available hospital ships and convention centers for people stricken with the coronavirus, but Governor Cuomo refused to send the ill to such highly equipped places, and instead sent the ill to ill-equipped old soldier’s homes and senior citizen facilities. This spread the corona virus among the very elders who should have been most protected, and roughly 10,000 died. Yet this in turn saved New York State roughly a billion dollars, because if those elders lived it cost roughly $100,000 per person per year to honor elders. 10,000 dead “saved” a billion. Killing elders may not be honoring them, but modern politicians know little about honor when a billion dollars is involved.
This didn’t surprise me, for, as I stated, I had little trust. I grew up in a rich town and knew how vile and fetid bigwig fat cats can be. I was repelled, and, though my disgust forced me to become downwardly mobile, I discovered the opposite of fetid is the fragrance of freedom. Money was not my master, and the blandishments of insurance and a pension could never seduce me into working for a boss who was not righteous. So what?
So…I lacked insurance and a pension. I’m still working at age 69, and qualify as poor, but I have ten grandchildren, while Bill and Hillary Clinton have zero. (And they are still working, too.)
Considering I’m sixty-nine, some ask me why I don’t apply for social security. Even though I keep working and working and working, friends say I should collect the benefits and then let the government take them back when I pay my taxes. But I find it hard to stomach asking. I have never thought Social Security was secure. I assumed the politicians had itchy fingers and would plunder the funds. The little I knew, investigating Social Security, seemed to affirm my distrust.
When President FDR created Social Security in 1935, he imagined the money collected from workers would go into a fund which the government would care for. The fund would grow, for the hardship of the Great Depression caused the life expectancy of men to sink to 56.6 years, which meant that most men paid into the fund and never collected a cent. They didn’t mind, (much), for Newspapers highlighted the first, prune-faced elders gratefully collecting their Social Security checks, even though they had paid little or nothing into the fund. A working man could feel good he helped elders.
Despite initial subtractions for elders who paid little into the fund, for the most part the fund grew, with more people paying in than collected. The life expectancy of women never surpassed 70 years until 1949, and as recently as 1969 the life expectancy of men was 66.8 years. This meant men collected for less than two years after paying in for forty-five or even fifty years. The fund was bound to grow. Basically, most people who collected in 1969 were widows, stay-at-home Moms who could expect to live to be 74.3 years as their husbands died at 66.8. Social Security was a good deal, a kind deal, a mercy for widows, but a doomed deal, because the fund grew too large.
1969 also marked a huge increase in the amount of people paying into Social Security, as the “Baby Boom” generation began to work, (albeit erratically.) The fund expanded, and politicians felt such an enormous amount of money should be invested wisely, but I think the investments were unwise, for rather than the fund now being more enormous, as it should be after the “Baby Boomers” made payments for a half century, the fund is basically bankrupt. Where did all that money go?
Ask the politicians. It will take a bit of sodium pentothal to get an honest answer.
Basically, to be blunt, they used up the money for bribes. They like to make bribery sound altruistic, “preforming services for constituents”, but, basically, they gave the money to people who had not paid into the fund, and who had no reason to expect benefits. The politicians would always claim they were “helping the poor”, but in truth they were bribing voters to vote for them. And now the money is all gone and the only way to pay the Baby Boomers will be to print money, which causes inflation and makes a Social Security check basically worthless. Where’s the “security” in a check that barely pays for heat and electricity in January, and leaves nothing for food?
I hate to say, “I told you so”, but I told you so. I wish I’d been wrong. In fact, I thought I was wrong, when my friends were retiring twenty years ago with cushy pensions, and I had to keep working and working and working. They had trusted what I didn’t trust, and they were reaping what I didn’t sow. I was the grasshopper, and they were the ants. But now….they face bankruptcy, as I’ve been bankrupt, (or at least hand-to-mouth), all along. Welcome back, fellows! Hope you enjoyed your long vacations, but its time to get back to work.
Just today, besides running my Childcare, I huffed and puffed out in a cold rain in my garden hoeing together thirty hills to plant winter squash in. God willing, each hill will bear three vines and each vine will produce three to ten squashes. Assuming only three per plant, that’s nine squashes per hill, and 30 hills will give me 270 winter squash. Assuming an average weight of 4 pounds, that’s more than half a ton of squash.
I doubt I can eat half a ton of squash next winter. In fact, I’ll have an excess to feed others with. Hopefully they’ll have something to trade in return that I desire, and we can call it “barter”. But if my neighbor is broke, unable to pay for (or find) oil to heat his home, (due to Biden’s policy) and unable to afford squash at the store-with-empty-shelves, because berserk inflation has a squash costing fifty dollars, I’ll not call it “charity”, but “hospitality” to invite him over to my warm wood stove to roast squash seeds on that stove, with some squash soup and squash pie. And hopefully we’ll be able to laugh at the irony of me, an old coot who has no pension, providing for him, an old coot who has one. It is like the grasshopper providing for the ant.
Of course, neighbor will not get off Scot free. He will have to pay a price for my hospitality. Hopefully the cost will not be too much to bear: He will have to listen to me recite some of my poetry, going back sixty years.
Here’s a couple of sonnets from over forty years ago. (1979 or 1980). I think that, despite the fact I was in my twenties when I wrote them, they have aged well. They give me the strange sense that all our lives we’ve sensed the impending crisis. There was just nothing we could do to stop it. Whatever will be will be. My old sonnets are like mouse-squeaks of warning.
THE GRASSHOPPER SONNET
When I was young, I was told a fable
About a grasshopper and one good ant.
The good ant gathered grain for its table.
The grasshopper fiddled the following rant:
"Man can't live on bread alone; all need song,
Yes, all need song. Life, without its tune
Is wrong; yes, utterly hopelessly wrong,
That grasshopper came to ruin
Or at least that is what the fable states.
I guess that means next spring will be silent
Without the sweet chirping a grasshopper makes.
I guess that means all the ways that I went
Will lead me to death, while you'll never die.
Either that or else all the old fables can lie.
THE ANT SONNET
The poor ants work while the grasshoppers fiddle.
The ant looks up to the sky with trust.
The ant can't see God stands in the middle.
The ant is shocked by the first locust.
The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped.
The ant's outraged, and it seeks its peers.
Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped.
Soon the last locust disappears.
Thus there's no fiddling. Thus there's no grain.
Thus we have nothingness. Thus we're insane.
Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain.
Thus does humanity go down the drain.
Pray for ecology; then there's a chance
That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.