LORE OF THE LINE STORM (Hurricane Jose–Updated)

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In the lore of New England the “line storm” was a storm expected to occur near the equinox. Because, as the above graph shows, the first peak in hurricanes occurs ten days too early, and the second, minor peak doesn’t occur until October, people who never get outside, and instead dither about indoors looking at graphs, can scorn the idea of the “line storm” as being a mere superstition.

But….(cue the twilight zone music)….I once didn’t dither about indoors as I do now. I once was young and went out on the water. To be blunt, those who haven’t been out on the water, (even in a small boat on a lake), when the winds start to rise and the sky darkens and life laughs at insurance adjusters, are missing something.

We would laugh at a person who thought he had a grasp of the weather who had never heard of a thermometer. A thermometer is vital, we think. But stepping outside?

Do not tell me you are wise when only
Books advise your eyes. Action speaks louder
Than words, and an island standing lonely
Needs another, if it is to proudly
Utter truths about Love. You must get out
Into the wind to know about weather.
Otherwise our intellect struts about
Like a peacock with a lone tail feather.
Even a small child, who hasn’t yet learned
The sky talks back, goes out and faces sky
And his face is lit up, with shadows spurned
As poetry fills each innocent eye.
Children worship best: They look up and lack
The ways we argue when skies talk back.

Americans once knew far more about the out of doors. More than half owned a farm and worked the soil, and a lot of the others sailed seas on small craft that would make OSHA cringe. To go to sea and never be heard of again was not all that uncommon, and, considering we all must eventually die, I’m not entirely sure I would not have preferred to die going “Yeee-Ha!” as my craft met a mighty wave, to surviving and eventually festering in a bed with tubes in my arms, with cancer, which we call “progress.”

I wasn’t too smart at age 18, and headed out to sea in 1971 on a voyage from Boston to Jamaica (don’t ask what for). In 1971 the “line storm” happened to be a hurricane called Ginger, which also headed out to sea, way out onto the mid Atlantic. And if you had studied books at that time you knew no storm so far out to sea could ever represent a threat to Cape Hatteras. But…

Hurricane Ginger 1971 220px-Ginger_1971_track

As chief (and only) meteorologist on the small craft I am proud to state we hesitated to the north and avoided Ginger, however a cold front absorbed what was left, and then that front just lay along the coast. I advocated further hesitation, fearing a nor’easter might brew up on the stationary front, but the captain was sick and tired of hesitation, and so we sailed south, smack dab into the nor’easter that brewed up.

Nor’easters are also considered “line storms”. After the summer quiet, when seas tend to be slack in New England, they first start to brew up when the first chilly cold-fronts come south in September. You would have to include them in your data, along with hurricanes, before you could accurately determine “line storms” were “superstition”. (Also you would have to narrow your focus to the waters near New England, where the lore was focused.)

In any case, at age 18 I experienced a reality that is somewhat different than what you experience indoors at computers. Entitlement? Yes, I was entitled to die, if I didn’t make an effort to do otherwise, (though I was so seasick the prospect of death wasn’t entirely unappealing.)

I’m not sure the nor’easter was particularly bad, but the small yacht was forty miles out to sea, and both the mainsail and jib halyards broke. Sails crashed flapping to the deck, and the engine quit, and we had no radio, and GPS hadn’t been invented. In other words, we were in the position which was not all that uncommon to find yourself in, back before engines and radios, in the age of sail. My ancestors likely would have gone, “Ho hum. Get the storm jib up.” I was disgracefully and utterly freaked out, and only functioning because I didn’t want to die.  Besides doing things I had no idea I was capable of, (such as climbing a whipping mast to thread a new halyard in the pulley atop a mast when the craft isn’t quiet in a harbor,) I also took meteorological observations. After all, once you’ve fixed what you can fix, there’s nothing to do but go up and up and up a big swell, and down and down and down the other side, over and over and over, so what else are you suppose to do at the helm, but observe? However those observations are through eyes that see differently than you see at a computer. (You are going to have to trust me about this, if you think virtual sailing’s the same.) For one thing, you can’t click to a new site when you get bored. You must observe, and observe, and observe…

For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. However for my ancestors it was far more everyday. It makes their lore a bit more credible, as, if they lived long enough, their experience included something scientists make a big deal about, called “replication.”

One interesting thing about the line-storm lore is that such storms were not seen as markers of the solstice. Heck, any calendar could do that. Rather they gave clues about the weather of the following autumn.  One was suppose to pay attention to how the line-storm ended. If it ended with warm weather it meant a different autumn lay ahead than if it ended with crisp, cold breezes from the north.

To some this might indicate they were sensible to storm tracks and weather patterns, in their own way. But to others it is just superstition.

In any case, with September 20 approaching a superstition named Jose is creeping towards New England.

11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 14
Location: 25.5°N 68.0°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 1 025306_wind_historyHurricane Jose 2 025306

Hurricane Jose 3 vis0-lalo

5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 15
Location: 25.9°N 68.7°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 4 vis0-lalo

11:00 PM EDT Fri Sep 15
Location: 27.4°N 71.0°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 983 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph

Hurricane Jose 5 vis0-lalo

I am having some sort of problem with WordPress wherein it fails to keep my updates. This is a test to see if it happens again.

8:00 AM EDT Mon Sep 18
Location: 33.5°N 71.2°W
Moving: N at 9 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph

Hurricane Jose 11 vis0-lalo

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HURRICANE IRMA SONNET

Above it all, I ride a soaring satellite
And see below a hurricane’s symmetry,
And wonder over the awe and delight
I get, seeing chaos create, so clearly,
An order, like stars in a galaxy
Swirling.
                    Surely the Creator’s might
Is seen in such art lifted from what, (to me),
Was a mess. Surely He can also make right
All our distress.
                                Yet I also know beneath
Those white curves is grief; families afraid
And huddled; roofs ripped off. A clean white wreath
Hides shrieking winds and shrieking men. What’s made
By the Creator then? It seems so odd
That down there they are also are thinking of God.

9:00 PM AST Wed Sep 6
Location: 19.2°N 66.3°W
Moving: WNW at 16 mph
Min pressure: 916 mb
Max sustained: 185 mph

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From the “Guardian”:  “In Barbuda, where the monster storm first made landfall at 1.47am on Wednesday, according to the US National Weather Service (NWS), 90% of structures were destroyed. The report came from Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in an afternoon press conference after he witnessed the damage first-hand. His visit followed a 12-hour communications shutdown from the island.”

So far there are no pictures I can find from Barbuda. I hate to admit I am slightly skeptical of Gaston Browne, who may be fishing for free funds. But the eye of the storm did pass directly over his island.  St. Kitts was to the south, at the edge of the hurricane force winds, but received the “storm surge”.

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People forget that even away from the eye of a super-hurricane, where winds are only at the strength of a “minimal” hurricane, you are talking about winds stronger than many have ever experienced. (Drive at 75 mph and then stick your hand out the window, for a rough idea.) Even without the flooding rains that made Harvey so devastating, the “Surge” can lift boats from safe anchorages, if their ropes are too short. Here’s another picture from St. Kitts. (Solar power didn’t save them.)

Irma 12 282942

Nothing to take for granted. Stay tuned.

 

LOCAL VIEW –Efts and Other Red Things in the Rain–

A wet spring has given way to a wet summer in New England, but spring’s bone-chilling rain has become the warm stuff of summer, and is actually nice to walk about in, even for an old geezer like myself. And our Childcare focuses on the outdoors, so even if I’d like to goof about indoors I’ve trapped myself into going out. The children are rather fatalistic about the situation, and are unusually resigned to adults who don’t know enough to come in out of the rain. My chief trouble comes from identifying who gets which boots, but fortunately the kids help me out.

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The world we head out into is especially green this year. We tend to hike three miles in four hours before lunch, which may seem slow, but the children stop a lot, and also likely circle about to such a degree they cover six miles for my three (measured by the pedometer in my cell phone.)

In such lush greenery anything red tend to bring progress to a screaming halt, especially if it is edible.Eft 6 FullSizeRender

It always fascinates me how some children only nibble a few strawberries, others stuff themselves, and some are natural born gatherers, and likely would the ones a tribe would assign to drying berries or making jam for the coming winter.

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(Notice the sun has popped out. This means I am carrying an armload of raincoats, until the rain starts up again.) The rain has made the wild berries much larger than normal. Here is an especially plush one, in a child’s small hand.

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When we compared the flavor of wild berries to the enormous, plum-sized berries in the children’s lunches, I was somewhat disappointed that the consensus was that commercial berries were sweeter. This made it all the more interesting that many children seem to prefer the tart, wild ones.

I impressed upon the kids what a big job it was for their great-great-grandmothers to make even a single jar of jam, and what a treat jam was, once the season for strawberries was over. In the days before refrigeration a thick syrup of sugar was a way of preserving things, just as pickling was. (Also, if the berries were not excessively heated the remaining vitamin C in the jam prevented scurvy, during winter months.)

The kids tend to be unimpressed when I attempt to impress this sort of trivia into their brains, and hurry ahead to the next discovery, which happened to be a surprisingly red mushroom.

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These are actually the ordinary brown shelf mushrooms that grow from the sides of dead and dying trees, and sometimes are strong enough to sit upon. They only are colorful when actively growing.Eft 8 IMG_5174

They were growing with surprising speed in the wet weather, and were hues even a geezer like myself had never noticed before (usually they are more purple when growing). One may have added enough weight to cause a rotted branch to fall to the ground.

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What was interesting was that the fungus continued to grow, but made an adjustment for the fact “down” was in a new direction. (Notice the slug feasting).

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The children were not all that interested, as one fellow forging ahead had discovered an eft.

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It is hard to keep the kids from picking efts up and bringing them home in their pockets, or poking them with sticks. I try to again impress upon them that the salamander’s skin can’t take much abuse.

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Efts are the juvinile form of a Newt, which is an interesting critter for it has somehow figured out three different ways to breathe. When it is a tadpole it looks like a minnow, only its gills stick out like feathers, even as it starts to grow legs.

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Then it grows lungs, and becomes the red eft on wet forest floors. But then it returns to the water and, after a final lungfull of air, can quit breathing, as it turns green and becomes a common eastern newt.

Eft 11 1024px-Redspotted_newt

At this point the newts breathe through their skin, using a process called “diffusion” which requires neither lungs nor gills. I was going to add that this is also how frogs can take a deep breath in the fall and then sleep in the mud under water all winter, but the children had had enough of my non-stop scientific trivia, and, as they realized we had left the unexplored part of the forest and were on a path they recognized, went rushing ahead to what they call “The Trampoline Tree”.

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These two hemlocks nearly fell over in a storm, but were kept from falling by neighboring trees. Their roots are great fun to bounce upon.

I suppose I could lecture the kids about how bouncing might hurt the fragile roots, but the trees will not last long in their current state, and I think children get enough of a guilt trip laid on them by PBS. PBS is downright prudish about nature, as if nature will be hurt by being touched. I don’t see how a nature-lover can be a lover if he or she never touches. Isn’t being a lover a hands-on experience?

I love when rain’s warm-blooded, and the green,
Green leaves are platting in July’s soft heart;
When the gutters are all flooded, and the queen
Of midsummer night’s dreaming plays a part
In romanticizing logic. Our thought
Gets too severe when we rush, rush, rush
To ensure our garden’s harvest is a lot,
And we never pause to hear how songbirds gush
Despite falling rain, despite distant thunder
Thumping nearer, and nearer, and nearer.
Are we not made poor by the great blunder
Of wearing blinders when we could see clearer?
All winter we waited for this sweet summer day.
All too soon glory will go waltzing away.

LOCAL VIEW –Liberty–

Liberty Bell LibertyBellPavillion02

Liberty is a cracked concept, and I think we Americans have been taken to school in many respects for the past fifty years, learning Freedom isn’t free, and liberty is no simple undertaking.

Not that I still don’t believe our Maker wants us free. It is just that we, in our ignorance, seem to make the most incredible mistakes, when it comes to mistaking chains as being freedom.

As a former smoker, I am well aware I was free to start smoking, but not so free when it came to quitting. When I tried to quit, I felt so awful that the only escape seemed to be to buy another pack, to be “free” of withdrawal symptoms. I chose my chains. And for years I was so blasted healthy that I got away with abusing my body, but the final ten years I smoked were more and more miserable, with a horrible cough and increasing weakness. Only when emphysema had me practically crawling, and cancer cost me a kidney, did I finally quit.

The experience was humbling, and allowed me to be less sneering towards my fellow mortals who demonstrate their addictions. Pity and mercy are good qualities, especially when dealing with arrogant fools (like I once was) who insist upon destructive behavior.

One particularly destructive behavior involves people’s desire for security.  People all but sell their souls for the “benefits” of a job. Even though they are never sick, they are so afraid of medical expenses that they cling to some job that stunts their spiritual growth and eventually makes them sick. They are so afraid of being poor when they get old that they cling to a job that kills them before they get old, for a promised “pension.” They think they have a “good” job, but live a shrunken life in a booth like a poor toll-taker on a turnpike.

I am quite serious about this. I have seen an amazing number of men endure decades of degradation in factories and government jobs for the “benefits”, and then drop dead surprisingly soon after they retire. It is as if, when they finally arrive at the day they “have it made”, it hits them that what they have made amounts to a big zero, and the revelation kills them.

I tend to be more forgiving of the need for security in the case of a woman with a babe in her arms. Her chest was made for feeding, not thumping with fists like a manly gorilla. She is more vulnerable, and has a greater need for security, and men are suppose to display guts and gain that security, by going without that security.

I know that some will call me a sexist for saying what I just said, but even the old Norman Rockwell painting “Freedom From Fear” shows the woman tucking the children in bed, as the man deals with the newspaper.

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I know that critics of the above picture will point out the man isn’t fighting. They will assume he is some fat-cat capitalist, and sending sons off to die so he can sit smugly at home. What they fail to see is that he has done something right, to create Freedom From Fear for the women and children. What he has done-right is out of the picture, behind the scenes, and only suggested by the fact he is holding a newspaper. Also critics fail to see the alternative is ridiculous. I know it, for I lived it, back when I believed women were liberated by being promiscuous without having babies. This new “freedom from fear” was perhaps accidentally portrayed by Mad Magazine:

MAD-Mag-Freedom-From-Fear-Updated

Even if Mad Magazine had some utterly different aim, they used what Jung would have called an “archetype”.  The woman does the tucking, and the man deals with the newspaper. The woman is more tender, and the man is more tough. The woman is more concerned with immediate and personal security, and the man is more able to go without such things.

I have great respect for men who die young in battle. I even have respect for men who die in middle age working life-sapping jobs in factories or government bureaucracies. But when I was young I thought there was a greater battle to fight, and I have fought it.

I am anti-war, because war is stupid, and I am anti-life-sapping bureaucracies and factories, because they too are stupid. I am a firm believer in “If Only People Weren’t Stupid.”

The polite word for “Stupid” is “Ignorance.” Ignorance is something we all can confess to, because only God has the omniscience that knows everything. We, as mortals, can either side with attempting to end our ignorance, or side with furthering it. If you have done your best to side with the former, you side with “good”, and if you side with the latter, then, sad to say, you are “evil.”

Men who suffer tedious work to support their homes are, up to a point, like soldiers suffering wounds to save their homelands. They are heroes. But past a certain point they should not go. Past a certain point they are being loyal to a Hitler, and damning their wife and children to the social destruction eventually earned by dictators. They should have told their boss, “Take this job and shove it”, but lacked guts. They were timid and cowardly, and subservient to ignorance, thinking some medical insurance or pension mattered more than freedom from ignorance. They were not free from fear, and when fear controlled them they became like addicts.

I was not prone to this particular addiction, because, after I had been loyal and faithful to a boss up to a certain point, and excused his sins as “shortcomings” up to a certain point, I drew the line. It did not seem to be a matter of my brains as much as it was my stomach. I had guts, so I got fired. This is the price of Liberty: Good-bye health insurance, good-bye sick-pay, good-bye vacation-pay, good-bye pension. You are reduced to the status of a hobo. But you haven’t sold your soul and, praise great God almighty, you are Free!

There is some suffering involved in being a hobo, but in my humble opinion it sure beats the suffering of the alternative. I tried out the alternatives, and even worked a union job for an amazing two years. So I talk of the alternatives with a little bit of experience, when I say slavery stinks, when compared to Liberty.

At times it can be strange, when I confess to people I was a hobo until age 37. When I describe getting fired from job after job, rich people get green with envy. Many never dared, because they were addicted to money. At times, when I was younger, talking of my life as a bum became downright awkward, because rich men’s wives looked at me lustfully, (I suppose because a hobo sometimes is a man, and a rich man sometimes is not).

In other words, Liberty has little to do with money. To some this is obvious, but to others this is like saying up is down, because they are addicted to ignorance. In fact they are the ones saying down is up. And history shows that these down-is-up people do get their comeuppance.

America (so far, at least) has always tended to side with Liberty, and not down-is-up people. Not that America isn’t misled by its down-is-up minorities, (Mad Avenue bankers  addicted to money, Washington politicians addicted to power, Hollywood imbeciles addicted to fame), but so far these attempts to capsize Liberty have always been righted by the sanity of tiny, little people.

When you study history this power-of-the-small becomes so apparent that, for me at least, I see the fingerprints of the Almighty. The laws of reaping-what-you-sow jump out at me, even in the exact same historical events where the down-is-up people claim to see proof that injustice pays. They have eyes but cannot see, yet deem themselves wise. They think they will get away with stealing Indian’s land, but later look up to see Sherman come marching through Georgia.  They think they can get rich clipper-shipping slaves and selling opium, but then their sons die marching through Georgia and their great-grandchildren die of heroin overdoses. The kick-back of Karma revisits sins on succeeding generations with a complex and inescapable perfection.

This is not to say down-is-up people can’t be gifted, brilliant organizers and administrators, but they can’t beat God. If they fail to see their gifts are given by God, and fail to be humble about being gifted, all the might in the world can be defeated by a flea, and a great army be stopped by a snowflake. Sennacherib marched 185,000 to Jerusalem, and his soldiers all died in in their sleep at its gates. Napoleon marched a huge Army into Russia, and few returned from the snowflakes alive.

The down-is-uppers tend to feel they are sharp as axes, and can cut others down, but what they fail to see is that no ax cuts by itself. The Creator created the ax, and can cast it aside. If our pride over the gifts we are given becomes that of a megalomaniac, rather than doing the cutting we are cut down. Of course, the powerful laugh at this concept, and say, “How can a tree cut down an ax?”  They never like learning the answer.

The time of Napoleon is fascinating, because he was a megalomaniac who began as a flea who the big-shots were blithely ignorant of, yet was given gifts that allowed him to become an ax that shook the world, before falling as the mighty all fall, into the afterglow of glory. As he disrupted the calm and disturbed the peace he forced friends and foes alike to dare to be great. Men had to leave the cozy security of home, leave wives and children,  and be men.

I like this time in American history because back then we were a flea, compared to European powers, and when the War of 1812 eventually erupted we were like a flea taking on an elephant. Not counting the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, we had a Navy of some 8 ships, and were taking on Britain’s 600. President Madison does not come across as exactly smart, (but, after all, he was a democrat).

However in order to find crews for its 600 ships England, (and to a lesser degree France), had to bully unwilling men onto their ships, and this had been going on for some ten years before the USA declared war. The impressing of American sailors ruffled American feathers, for, while the USA might have only had a 8 ship Navy, it had developed the second largest fleet of Merchantmen in the world, and these ships were not crewed by men bullied aboard by press gangs, but by men who dared put personal security aside, for their wife and children, and risked death on the bounding main, calling it liberty and relishing it. They wanted no part of Europe’s war, but Europe wanted American goods to supply their troops, and both sides wanted to prevent America from supplying the other side. Jefferson faced an undeclared war with France, (which was angry we didn’t side with them, after they had sided with us in our Revolution.) Jefferson also faced Arab states in North Africa who demanded we pay tribute. And the English were increasingly demanding as well.

Of course it was not Jefferson, and later Madison, who was actually out on the ocean facing these troubles. Besides courage, strength and wisdom, life as a merchantman demanded diplomatic skill, and often involved having to smile as the English or French absconded with your cargo, and sometimes your ship.  The amazing thing is that the sailors kept sailing. I suppose the profits were better than the profits from farming, and there was also the not inconsiderable fact that sailing is just plain wonderful fun, for many men.

In any case, the United States may have had a small Navy, but it had a wealth of excellent sailors who were out on the sea because they wanted to be there, as opposed to the English crews who sometimes had been dragged on board their boats kicking and screaming, and would desert at the first opportunity, though doing so meant they risked being hung.

What then happened, once war was declared, was that the American merchantmen turned into “privateers”. They were suppose to get an official slip of paper from the American government, but not everyone bothered. I think it is for this reason there are hugely varying estimates on how many privateers sailed against the English. Officially there were some 500 “licenced” ships, but I have read estimates there were well over a thousand privateers in actual fact. (If you had a licence you were suppose to report your booty, when you got home, at the custom house and pay a tax. Of course this was not always done, by sailors who knew a great deal about smuggling, and about getting around red tape. In fact, in New England, which was most dependent on merchantmen, and where the war was very unpopular, (called “Mr. Madison’s War”), one way around the British blockade was to meet with the blockaders. The British blockade was actually depriving Britain itself of supplies that were needed. Therefore some merchantmen arranged to be “captured”, and then, after goods were off-loaded and cash changed hands, they conveniently “escaped”. So you see, there is a way around red tape, if you look for it.)

When a privateer set sail it had a over-sized crew, for every time it captured an English ship some of its crew had to board the captured ship and sail it home. Some ships would sail off with over a hundred men and return home crewed by fifteen. Some of the ships they captured were recaptured by the British, but many captured ships sailed back into American ports loaded with needed supplies, and as they arrived they told a thrilling tale of the parent ship’s exploits.

Some of the tales are wonderful.  The Paul Jones set sail from New York in 1812 with 120 men aboard, but only 3 cannons. She had holes cut in the side for 17.  The captain had logs painted black to look like cannons and sailed up to the British merchant ship Hassan, which carried 14 guns, but had a crew of only 20. The Paul Jones sent the extra crew swarming up into the rigging to look like marines.   The captain of the Hassan was so fooled by the bluff that he surrendered without firing a shot. In this manner the Paul Jones not only gained a “prize ship”, but 14 cannons, and the captain was able to fill the Paul Jones’ gun mounts with actual guns.

Captain William Nichols, aboard the Decauter,  eluded the English frigate Guerriere, but was unable to elude a faster frigate despite throwing his cannons overboard to go faster. To everyone’s relief the faster frigate was the American ship Constitution, and Captain Nichols was then able to direct the Constitution where to find (and defeat) the Guerriere. However as the Constitution sailed out of sight the Decauter’s crew promptly mutinied, insisting they should head home because they had only two cannon left to fight with. After subduing the mutiny by bopping the ringleader over the head, Captain Nichols proceeded to get cannons by capturing seven ships in five days, and headed home with hardly any crew left aboard his own ship, after capturing a total of ten.

The official tally, kept by Lloyds of London, was 1175 British ships captured, of which 373 were captured back by the British Navy before getting back to the United States. The actual numbers were likely higher, as insurance rates got so high as the war went on some ships may have sailed without insurance. Though the British blockade deeply hurt American ports,  the English were forced to resort to sailing in convoys. They were able to keep troops supplied (except in the Great Lakes),  but the American privateers then sailed across to England, even into the mouth of the Thames, and made the English fishermen fear to go out and fish, resulting in a shortage of that staple to the English diet in English markets. Lastly, there is a lot we don’t know. Of the privateers that officially reported their existence to the American government, 317 never reported capturing any ship. Hmm. Makes you wonder what they were doing with themselves, sailing around out there all that time.

The thing that fascinates me was this was a completely disorganized effort. It was not military in nature, and involved no planning board writing up logistics. It was just a bunch of individual captains and their crews, going every which way without any particular order, and becoming a total thorn in the side of the British fleet.  It was not what one would expect, looking at the original of odds of 8 American ships against 600. To me it demonstrates what individuality can accomplish, when set against a vast and seemingly all-powerful organization. Watch out for the flea.

Meanwhile the Americans in charge (being democrats) were making a shambles of things. A flea smaller than even the United States was Upper Canada, but the political appointments in charge of the war made such a mess of things that little Canada initially whupped our butts.  Further south British troops marched into the White House and ate Madison’s dinner, before burning the place down.  (Baltimore was saved only because a political appointment was booted out, and replaced by a Revolutionary War veteran who knew his ass from his elbow.)

Another small flea that made a difference consisted of some 3000 black slaves, who used the war as a chance to make a dash for freedom. In many cases the men joined the British army and fought against their former masters. (After the war many were settled in Canada, while others settled with their families as farmers on the south coast of Trinidad, where they live to this day as the “Merikins”.) (So perhaps democrats do get credit for freeing some slaves….with the law of unintended consequences kicking in.)

It is odd how liberty works.

In the end the United States did quite well to escape that war with the event called “a draw”. (The real losers were the Indians….but that’s another story).

Happy Independence Day!

Liberty has its price. At dawn I pay
The toll and buckle my worn leather belt
And plod out into the duty of new day
And remember no dreams, nor how I felt
When young, but a cloud then catches my eye.

It’s just a wisp of white in the west;
Just a mare’s tail, a curl of cirrus in the sky,
But disturbs me from my dormancy’s rest.

Toil has its peace, a dulling mindlessness,
But the cloud’s a disturbing reminder
That Liberty’s more than mess after mess.
It’s aim is higher, sweeter, kinder.

Liberty’s price is: Blood waters it’s root,
But Liberty’s hope is a fine future fruit.

LOCAL VIEW –Wink–

Here is a picture of children not being obedient. I told them to wait. They are vanishing into the distance. (Actually this is a zoomed-in part of a larger picture; you can barely see them in the larger picture.)

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In a sense children are a lot like life. They refuse to follow the plan, and this can cause all sorts of different sorts of dourness to afflict us. One thing I’ve recently been noticing is the cure often isn’t words.

This is bad news for people like myself, who have invested a lot into the study of words. It is also bad news for people who don’t think talk is cheap, and make it expensive, such as psychiatrists. But again and again I’ve recently seen members of my staff, and the young parents who are my customers,  not only say a lot with a wordless gesture, but seem to solve a problem as well.

Solve a problem? Yes, because everything is stressed, and then, just by the way they roll their eyes, or give themselves a face-palm, they cause laughter to come to relieve the stress. This is bad news for the pharmaceutical industry.

I’ve been noticing this phenomenon so much that I’ve started to study it. As it is beyond words, I don’t suppose I can find the words to describe it, but sometimes poetry is within a glance. We say a person “beams” at us.  It makes me think we should observe silence from time to time, for otherwise words, whether spoken or written,  can become mere yammering. Silence is golden.

Most recently I saw this wonder within a wink. Not a word was spoken. A person just winked, and my heart was eased by a good laugh. It got me thinking, and looking backwards across the years…

…Musing backwards to days I spent drifting,
When shaving and showers were luxuries;
When shopkeepers thought I’d likely be lifting;
When hunger made appetite easy to please
And downwind of kitchens was Oh so delicious,
I couldn’t help look unworthy of trust.
One look at me made policemen suspicious.
I practiced innocent looks, or got cussed,
But one day I decided to risk arrest.
I saw a bored girl in a black limousine
And as I slouched by I gave her my best
Roguish wink. I wish you could have seen
Her sour face dawn a recalcitrant smile.
It made being a drifter completely worthwhile.

LOCAL VIEW –Of Polar Bears And Rainbows–

Sometimes we so-called adults take our problems too seriously. We forget the story has a happy ending, as we climb the stairs to our personal gallows.

Even as a humorist I am guilty of bringing up so many things to laugh about that I forget joy. My sense of humor is based on the pathos of human bungling: The way we attempt to be gods, and wind up forgetting where we put our car keys. It is better to laugh about such things than to spit, but if you focus on such things too much you can forget that laughter can be quite different, and not founded upon stooges bungling, but rather upon joy.

As I care for children at my Childcare I see them laugh at all sorts of things adults have forgotten to laugh about. Sometimes it is for sheer joy: A bird lands on a fence-post and sings, and the child just laughs.

One time in the 1950’s Winston Churchill, despite his amazing efforts to save Britain from destruction, was plunged to despair by the writing he could see on the wall, which suggested the the British Empire was crumbling. An American preacher was visiting, and Churchill inquired how the man could have hope. The answer was, “I read the end of the Book.”

In other words, our Creator was not so ill informed that he created a creation where everything blew up in His face, as if our Creator was a mad scientist with test tubes. We mortals might achieve such an end, but the Creator has a slight advantage because He stands outside of time. (Even time is His creation.) We may be bound by time, like characters in a single frame of a comic strip, but the Creator, as “the Alpha and Omega”, stands outside the comic strip, and sees all the frames from beginning to end simultaneously. Considering He knew the ending before the beginning, he would have to have had a very odd sense of humor if He created a comic strip that made Him look like an ignorant buffoon, and a chump.

This is especially true if it is true that a fundamental and intangible quality of the Creator is: The only thing more spiritual than a sense of humor. Which is? It’s a thing called “Love.”

Science has yet to measure Love, but science also has yet to measure humor. But Love, I think, is what differentiates laughter over human bungling, from laughter for sheer joy.

One reason we mortals like to “get back to nature” when we are in a bad mood is because out in the landscapes of nature we see how amazing our Creator is. Even though I aggravate some of my fellow Christians by including “evolution” in the many examples of the Creator’s creative genius,  to me evolution is a reason to laugh in delight.

For example, consider the hoof of a horse. We have ancient skeletons to study, and can see that ancient horses had five digits like we do. Then they had three digits. Now they are running around on their middle fingers. When a horse rears around and attempts to kick my chin past my ears, it is “giving me the finger.” Is that not a reason to at least chuckle?

Evolution has a harder time explaining other examples of our Creator’s genius. For example, there is an orchid in the Amazon that is dependent on a certain species of wasp. Without these certain wasps it cannot be pollinated, and can’t produce seed, and would swiftly die out.  Therefore, to make sure that wasp comes to its flower, the orchid tricks the wasp into thinking it is a wasp. It achieves this by making a flower that not merely looks like the wasp, but smells like the wasp, so the male wasps literally attempt to mate with a vegetable, fooled into thinking orchids are female wasps.

It is hard to figure out, step by step, how evolution came up with such an arrangement. It is not as simple as five digits gradually becoming a hoof. But I’m working on it. It may help explain to me how Madison Avenue convinces some men they can successfully copulate by buying a Cadillac.

In any case, when you “get back to nature” you enter a world of wonder. I’m not talking about a city park, where everything grows because humans planted them there. I’m not even talking about well kept farmland, where the weeds are under control. I’m talking about lands where man has little to do with where things sprout, and things are sometimes more beautiful than man could ever devise.

It is there we perhaps find a hope beyond our own efforts, and a sign we are under the wings of a compassionate Creator. I have seen nature “cure” children psychiatrists can’t “help”. Children deemed “uncontrollable” and “in need of medication” become downright serene, if you allow them to throw rocks and smash the crystal surface of a pond, and pluck dandelions and puff the seeds to the winds. Furthermore, nature is not harmed by the young hooligan’s destructive behavior, and in fact nature seems to like it, and to incorporate it into a grander plan.

Pharmaceutical companies and psychologists will despise me for saying this, but the Creator kicks their butts. A walk in the woods and by a pond simply benefits boys more, and costs zero. (Financiers won’t like that either.)

In like manner, the entire “Global Warming” scam is people thinking the Creator cannot manage things, and they themselves are the almighty savior.

In some ways it is difficult to see the scam, for the con-artists pretend to be on the side of “nature,” like snake oil salesmen pretending to be “doctors”. However, just as snake oil salesmen are in a hurry to leave town before customers discover that their claims had no basis in fact, Global Warming Alarmists seek to muddy waters, oppress critics, hide their emails, avoid full disclosure, and, if need be, leave town.

This is typical human behavior and is laughable, but sometimes it reaches a degree where laughter is inappropriate. The people who claim they “help children” may become fat and rich, as the children themselves become increasingly skinny and afflicted by suffering. My humor then becomes increasingly bitter and sardonic, and drifts away from joy. In a sense I am drifting away from the very thing I stand for.

I am in need of rescue, but who can I turn to.? A psychiatrist? Forget it. A pharmaceutical company? Forget it. And so on and so forth. Forget it.

The so-called “helpers” of this world are so corrupted that I think I can see sanity in youth losing hope and preferring heroin and death.  In fact a lot of other so-called “adult” behavior isn’t all that different. Maybe death is deferred a little longer, but no rescue is hoped for. Life loses its appeal.

Fortunately, if you are keeping your eyes open,  a rare rescue will come to pass. It is called, “a day in June.” It is the single day each year wherein the Creator hints just how good things could be, “if only.” It knocks ordinary logic back on its ass.

Robert Frost pointed out this phenomenon when, (tongue in cheek), he created an amazingly long title for a relatively short poem. The long title was,  “Happiness Makes Up For In Height What It Lacks In Length.”

“O stormy, stormy world,
The days you were not swirled
Around with mist and cloud,
Or wrapped as in a shroud,
And the sun’s brilliant ball
Was not in part or all
Obscured from mortal view–
Were days so very few
I can but wonder whence
I get the lasting sense
Of so much warmth and light.
If my mistrust is right
It may be altogether
From one day’s perfect weather…

(You will have to research the end of his art yourself, because I stop at this point because he has made my point: One day a year has a huge influence.)

One such day defies science, for it is not replicated. It denies democracy, because it is out-voted by 364 other days. It is a single beam of love from the eye of One who can bring you to your knees.

And don’t tell me you have never experienced that. You may have called yourself a fool for becoming gushy, but we’ve all been there and done that. One glance, and everything changed.

When you are young the one-day-a-year-better-than-all-others may result in disappointment, for it often involves the glance of a potential lover. When you get to be an old grouch like myself you have not so great a hope for carnal gratification. The only gratification you want is one day the weather doesn’t suck. One fricking day that isn’t too hot or too cold, too snowy or too rainy, or too like a frying pan.

Guess what? I just passed through that one day a year.

It happened in all areas of my life. For example, my study of arctic sea-ice involves the potential extinction of polar bears, but O-buoy showed, between June 23 and 25, a couple of bears ambled by unconcerned about the summer thaw:

Obuoy 14 0623 webcamObuoy 14 0625 webcam

The bears are alive and well, with populations increasing.

I’m well as well, after a perfect day, not to hot, not too humid, and, just when I was thinking that maybe I should water the garden, a benign evening shower watering the garden for me, with only a few contented grumbles of thunder,  which then made a spectacular double rainbow.

Bow 1 IMG_5112

I include the power-lines because I am a humorist, and wise to how even this evening’s gorgeous sunset can be lessened, if your focus is a sardonic joke:

Bow 2 FullSizeRender

But that is not truly my focus. (To focus on a bully misses something nicer.) All one needs to do is walk fifty yards and there are no wires in the picture.

Bow 3 FullSizeRender

I took a lot of pictures, and all failed to communicate how vivid the rainbow was.

Bow 4 IMG_5109

Nor can anything communicate what my 3-year-old granddaughter was communicating to me, as she rode my shoulders, as I snapped the shots.

You are just going to have to trust me, when I state it was my one-day-a-year, wherein the Creator trumps all other cards dealt out.

Pay attention to this lone card, when it is dealt out to you. Do not be seduced by the 364 other cards you are dealt. They only spoil the view.

Sometimes it takes a perfect day in June
To remind me that defeat is not the end.
Oh, it may end me, and it could come soon,
But today’s rare beauty was such a friend
It made morbid thoughts piffle. An old tune
Found its way to my lips, and I walked
With summer in my step. It could end soon
But life was no longer a thing I stalked
Like elusive prey, but was what I was.

How blue was the sky! How green were the trees!
The sun’s touch was perfect, as was the breeze,
And I felt free of desire’s cruel claws.

How can defeat ever torment and sting
When you see, owning nothing, you have Everything?

LOCAL VIEW –200,000 Views–

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and for some reason extraordinary stuff always seems to happen on her birthday, no matter how much we try to keep it quiet. One year we chose to have a quiet take-out dinner on a beach on the shore of a lake, and as we ate there was not only a spectacular sunset with a thunderhead shooting forks of amazing lightning, but the obligatory double rainbow to boot, vivid against deep purple clouds.

Another year we were just about to leave for the beach, when a pipe burst in the cellar. (Not a usual thing in June). The miracle was that we found a plumber who showed up within minutes and had the pipe fixed so fast we still left for the beach before noon.

This year the problem was again in the cellar, and began the night before my wife’s birthday. The hot and humid weather had condensed water on cold pipes, which drizzled down into the pressure switch of the water pump, causing a shorting that filled the cellar with smoke, and melted the switch into the “on” position. Usually the switch clicks off when the pressure reaches 40 psi. Now it was increasing past 40 psi, past 45 psi, past 50 psi, past 55 psi…

I was oblivious, typing at this word processor.  I have developed this ability, because I have a granddaughter in the house, and if I don’t develop extraordinary powers of concentration I’ll never get a word written on this blog. This is especially true because any time my granddaughter demands attention my dog Elsie gets jealous, and Elsie has this weird response where she barks frantically and chases her tail. I can’t tell you how often this stuff is going on in the background, as I write the words you read.

Night before last my wife and daughter were attempting to convince my granddaughter to get into the bathtub, which my granddaughter was vehemently objecting to. The dog was chasing its tail and barking. The water was shooting into the bathtub with extraordinary power from the faucet, and a strange smell was arising from somewhere. And I was completely oblivious, concentrated as I was on details on a computer screen pertaining to sea-ice, and a critical comment made by a troll on my website.

My wife sweetly managed to get my attention by evacuating the house, including a naked three-year-old. As she departed she noticed I was looking down a cellar staircase filled with smoke, and inquired “Should I call 911?” I said, “No,” and headed down into the smoke, whereupon her advice was, “Hold your breath.”

In the cellar I could find nothing burning, and in fact after I opened the windows the smoke seemed to be dispersing. My daughter came down and helped me look for something burned, but we could find nothing. Then she mentioned the water coming out of the faucett more vigorously than usual, as she was filling the bath, which seemed odd, so I went upstairs and turned on the water in the kitchen sink. It shot out with amazing ferocity. So I went back down and looked at the water-pressure gauge, and saw it going from 110 psi to 115 psi to 120 psi…

It then occurred to me that maybe I should check the pressure switch, but it was in a dark area and I couldn’t see very well. so, with the cover removed, I gave it a nudge with the plastic handle of a tool. This produced a vivid blue ball of electrical arcing about the size of a turnip, followed by a smaller tongue of orange flame, at which point it occurred to me I should turn off the circuit breaker labeled “pump.”

Problem solved. I could get back to what I was writing. I mention this only because some young writers say they cannot write without a grant. And they are not even married, and run no business, and have no problems worth mentioning, (except maybe a bad choice for a girlfriend). I doubt they could stand five minutes in my shoes, dealing with the distractions I deal with, yet I do write, (and sometimes write too much, according to my wife).

Let this be a lesson to you young poets. You have no excuse for not writing. If you are going to whine, make a music of your blues. You can do it if you really want to write. If you want money, well, that is a different matter, and you probably should seek some other occupation.

Less artistic and more pragmatic readers will have noticed that, while I solved the problem of smoke in the basement, a new problem, involving no water in the house, had raised its head. This was no way to be beginning my wife’s birthday.

I planned to head off for a new pressure switch as soon as the closest hardware store, twenty miles away, opened in the morning. However company arrived early, to wish my wife happy birthday, and I had to smile and nod. As soon as I could enact a diplomatic escape I drove twenty miles, bought a $16.00 pressure switch, drove twenty miles back,  and went down into the cellar and replaced the fried switch myself. A plumber would have charged $300.00.

There was a lurid red warning on the pressure switch instructions that stated the switch should be rewired by a qualified electrician. Pish tush! What plumber heeds that warning? And if they don’t, why should I?

Not that either an electrician or plumber could figure out the wiring of a 250-year-old house, where electricity was an afterthought. In a modern house the wiring for the pump is right next to the pressure switch, and four wires are involved, but in my house the wiring for the pump is far across the room, and only two wires are involved at the pressure switch. It’s no big deal; just a different way of achieving the same end. But small-minded people and government regulators likely would freak out, because they insist there is only one way to skin a cat. They would likely tear the whole house down and rebuild it to “specs.” Me? I just put the switch in, adjusting for only two wires.

The pump worked and my wife got to shower before noon on her birthday. We saved $270.00, and I figured we could go out to some semi-classy joint and buy ourselves a fine meal with expensive drinks for $270.00, but instead we were invited to a special birthday late-lunch by friends who don’t drink. So we saved $270.00 twice.

I was slightly annoyed, because the way things were turning out I had no time for my art.  I’m not referring to this blog, for I did sneak in a few replies to comments here, but rather to another form of self-expression, which is my wood carving. You see, I am a small-town version of Michelangelo. Much smaller. More like a Mike. And I did want to find the time to finish a birthday present for my wife. I didn’t.

Now here is another lesson for young poets. You don’t need to despair when you don’t have time to finish a poem, and you don’t need to whine for a government grant that might allow you to finish. Just call your unfinished work “a fragment.” People who really love you will see where you were aiming.  They will give you the leeway to fulfill your promise.

For example, one year my wife gave me a scarf she was knitting me, though she had only the time to knit a third of it. The next year she gave me the same scarf, only two thirds completed. And the following year I got the finished scarf, and it means more than any other scarf to me. I still have it to this day, and still use it though it is tattered. In like manner, my wife was surprisingly pleased by the carving I hadn’t completed.

Unfinished IMG_5106

I will admit it bugs me to have a carving uncompleted. (Not that Michelangelo didn’t leave some amazingly cool stuff only partly carved.) However the reason it bugs me is a reason that may scare the socks off some young poets. And the reason is this:  The only way a carving can get better is to lose more.

In any case, we headed off to our late lunch, and lingered long, and just as we were leaving that lunch at sunset we received a text from a neighbor stating our smoke detector had gone off. We texted back we were on our way home, and that the smoke detector could go off in humid weather, and they shouldn’t worry. But then my wife remembered the pressure switch I had put in, and we decided we’d drive a bit faster.

As we passed the fire station we noticed all the trucks were gone, but the place was lit up and around thirty people were happily milling about. When we arrived home we couldn’t see the house, because three firetrucks were in the way. There was also a police cruiser, adding blue lights to all the red lights.

I have to admit I was thinking about the pressure switch I’d replaced. Had I crossed wires?  Was my home, beyond the looming firetrucks obstructing the view, a pile of ashes?

Nope. That morning my daughter had set off the kitchen alarm, burning the toast, so she removed the alarm from the ceiling and put it on the window-sill, whereupon it went quiet. Why it chose a later time to blare out, I don’t know, but it was basically a false alarm.

The odd thing was, no one was annoyed. Life must get boring in my little town, for all these volunteer firemen had showed up, dressed in sixty pounds of fireman clothing, and they all seemed positively delighted they’d found an excuse to get out of the house on a warm summer night. Rather than anyone angry about a false alarm, it was a happy social event. We all laughed about smoke alarms, (apparently they’d been called out the night before because someone threw a smoke alarm away, and it went off in a dumpster,) It was the typically unusual event that always seems to happen, on my wife’s birthday.

Eventually everyone went home, and I entered the house, to meet a very guilty dog. Apparently Elsie felt she was to blame. Usually she barks her fool head off when anyone knocks at the door, (and I’d wondered why she was so silent with three firetrucks outside).

When I first entered I couldn’t even find her.  The poor cur was cowering in the bathroom. She barely poked her nose out when I walked in the neighboring room, and when I said, “Hey there, old dog, come here”, she didn’t rush out for reassurance, but rather slowly backed from sight. Why? You figure it out. Apparently dogs take responsibility for things we cannot comprehend.

The same is true for young poets, but I haven’t time to elaborate much on this idea.

Instead I chose to point out that I, at long last, without any government grants to free me from worldly distractions,  did sit down here at my computer to blog. The first thing I did was to check the WordPress “stats” page, which shows me how many people have visited, and what nations they have visited from. Also I can see how many “views” I’ve had since I started this blog in December, 2012. It said I’d been “viewed” 200,006 times.

I sat back to think about that number. Not that any particular view means more than another, but it was a bit like when your odometer rolls over in a car. It gives you pause.

My mind went back to when I was a young poet, and very much wanted to be noticed, but no one seemed to want to do it. In fact I had the ability to help people remember appointments they were late to, simply by clearing my throat, lifting my index finger, and mentioning I’d written a poem. The only people who would stay and listen required that I listen to their poems in return, and that was a pretty steep price to pay. In the end I became discouraged and decided the world could go to hell. If they refused to be lectured to, about a way to end all wars and make everything nice, they could just go get stuffed.  I became a hermit of sorts.

That got old. Not that I didn’t have some mystical experiences born of deep thought, but they were few and far between, and mostly I was lonely and felt like my brains were shriveling up. No man’s an island, and we need the input of others. Also if you never go out you wind up broke. Eventually I hit the road.

A while back I came across a folder of my letters that my mother had saved from my days as a drifter. She had a tendency to worry too much, so the letters were always upbeat, even when written from difficult periods in my life. One letter in particular made me laugh.

My mother was worried I was too isolated and too much a loner. I told her I thought God agreed, and therefore God had arranged for me to make 10,000 people smile, on an individual basis, one after another. It then listed the series of jobs I’d had in the prior six months, pumping gas, serving burgers, serving donuts and running the register at small markets, and explained how I took it upon myself to get customers to smile. (I didn’t mention the failures.) At the bottom of the list was the number 10, 242. I figured this would ease my mother’s worry about me being a loner. Also I added that I’d decided I wasn’t a poet; I was the American sort of writer called a “humorist”, a sort of modern Will Rogers, defying depression with a “I never met a man I didn’t like” attitude.

I then concluded that while some gain acclaim by making a crowd of 10,242 laugh, it is also great to create the same number of smiles by dribs and drabs, unnoticed by the crazy media, but perhaps smiled at by God.

I’m not sure this convinced my mother; she did seem to like to worry; but the important thing is that it convinced myself. Furthermore I became aware I was not alone. As I drifted through the heartland of America I became aware there was a vast body of people making smiles, even when it was raining. It was something I failed to notice when I was a hermit, and down on humanity, and, if I saw anything in society, it was the mentality of a mob. Not that such bad things don’t happen, but it is more than countered by the fact God is in everyone, and shines out from faces if you make the effort to cheer people up.

And this is my final bit of advice to young poets. Don’t be fooled by fame. It isn’t necessary, and judging from people afflicted, is actually a hazard. Also, for every singer who makes the big time, like the Beatles, there are thousands in small places, singing in remote church choirs or to children or with friends, and they make an enormous difference. Without them life would be stark.

Not that it isn’t nice to get 200,006 views. It was especially nice that it happened on my wife’s birthday.  She’s the one who has to put up with me when I get a far away look, and don’t notice the cellar is on fire. And when there isn’t a fire, she sometimes has to light a fire under me to get me moving. I wouldn’t blame her for wondering, at times, if I am wasting my time at this computer. 200,006 views is therefore a sort of reassurance.

And you never really see the effects of small and random acts of kindness. It only takes a grain of sand to start an avalanche, and our influences go onward even after we have left the scene.