LOCAL VIEW –A Burr’s Blessing–

One gift my parents gave me was a sort of idealism that doesn’t seem like a gift. It can seem like a burr stuck in your hair, as this old world can be hard on idealists. Not only do others disappoint us, but we can disappoint ourselves. For this reason many who started out idealists become cynics; the softhearted become hardhearted; optimists become pessimists; the faithful become faithless.

To me such a response always seemed a weakness, and even a sort of sell-out. What sort of idealist quits just because the going gets tough? One should persevere, and have high hopes:

Of course, being so hopeful and optimistic, even in the face of proof such behavior is unwise, did make me a bit of a sucker and a chump. But my parents again set an example, for even when their idealism went down in flames (in the form of their intensely acrimonious divorce), the same stubborn unwillingness-to-compromise (which perhaps led to the divorce) made them stubbornly unwilling to compromise on their idealism after their divorce. Even in the smoking wreckage of a crashed marriage they stubbornly persisted with their views and insisted they were correct, which I found very embarrassing, as a teenager, but which I also respected as a powerful reality, even though I didn’t understand it. Therefore it is only logical that I would follow in their footsteps, and remain true to the dual-idealism I inherited, despite all evidence idealism was unwise.

For example, most bosses initially felt lucky, when they hired me. I possessed the so-called, “Puritan Work Ethic”, and had high standards for my self, and was an athlete and enjoyed working hard. But bosses discovered I also had high standards regarding the behavior of bosses, which made them feel less lucky and made me look less desirable. Eventually, (and quite often so swiftly my rise and fall was like a yo-yo’s), our employer-employee compromise would become untenable, and divorce (IE: Getting fired or quitting) became unavoidable. As a consequence I worked over a hundred jobs, and have great experience concerning bosses, and have acquired reams of knowledge about all quirks and foibles bosses may have. I also have no pension, for I never found a boss worth a compromise of longer than two years, let alone the soul-selling duration-of-decades required for a pension. As far as I’m concerned, any person collecting a pension is either very lucky or very weak. They are lucky, if they lucked into a worthy boss, and they are weak, if they stayed working all those years for an unworthy boss.

Eventually I discovered self-reliance mattered, and the best boss was my foolish self, and I became “self-employed.”  Of course, once you are “self-employed” you still have bosses, but they are called “customers”. So you have to add another hundred bosses to the total I have worked for. I may not have a pension, but I do know a thing or two about bossy people. In fact I know much more than the fellow collecting a pension, for he compromised and worked for the same boring boss for thirty years, whereas I have worked for two hundred bosses. I deserve some sort of master’s degree. The irony is that the fellow with no experience gets a pension, as I, with all my wisdom, get little respect and no money.

What have I gained? It is a difference traced by the poet William Blake, which led him to call a first book, “Songs Of Innocence“, and a second, “Songs Of Experience.” It is a product of the pain of a burr, like the irritation of a grain of sand in an oyster’s tender places producing a pearl. In effect, it is proof hardship has meaning, and that you are getting something deeply significant out of life’s struggles, other than filthy lucre. It suggests the meaning of life, and of spiritual progress, and of real “gain”, is not measured by money.

One sad thing I’ve seen in those who retire, (in some cases far younger than I), is that despite one [or two or even three] fat pensions, they are often dead within a year or two of retiring. There are of course many exceptions to this rule, but such deaths happen frequently enough to be concerning. It as if such retirees realize they compromised too much, and worked their entire lives for emptiness, and the disillusionment kills them.

I don’t know much about this disillusionment, because I failed to live such a compromised life longer than two years, (and loathed those two years, during which time I joined a union, and discovered I then had two bosses at the same time). However I can speak with authority about how to get fired or quit, and how to never get a pension.

This seemed a totally useless authority to speak with, and a worthless wisdom to own, when I was a not-so-young, penniless man of 37, and still unmarried, and quite lonely. Where others bragged about increases in income, I could only brag about getting by on less and less (so I did so, for a man must brag about something). Even those who liked me tended to laugh at my idealistic attitudes, deeming me a mere mad poet. Therefore they were alarmed when I abruptly announced I was about to marry, and not marry a single woman either, but rather marry a woman with three small children.

To be honest, I saw no evidence even my closest friends thought the marriage was a good idea, or would last as long as a year. To some the idea of a person like myself being even a tenth as responsible as a husband and father has to be was not laughable, because it was too painfully embarrassing to even consider. After all, if I couldn’t even work for a boss, how could I possibly work for a wife?

Fortunately I had met a woman who on some level was as idealistic as I was, and who also didn’t care about money. Not that she didn’t enjoy the good life, when it was possible, but when the good life retreated from the present tense far into the foreseeable future, she was strangely unperturbed. What did she care for more than money? She cared about children and family, and she’d been through hard times that taught her that you can have the delights of children and family without a cent to your name. Consequently money had slipped downwards, in terms of importance, on her inward “list”.

As we talked we discovered we were on the same page, in a way impossible to describe to those who measure with money. We agreed a beer sipped in love was far superior to champagne without love, and agreed about fifty other things, and all that agreeable agreement occurred during the first hour of our first date. This hour astonished me, for usually I found dates painful, and the talk so stilted and ludicrous that I usually wanted to escape the woman more than I wanted to seduce her. But this woman was different. As I recall, we talked non-stop for a solid week, every chance we could, and, rather than wanting to escape, I wanted more.

We eventually agreed that love is so important it deserves a capital “L”, and this “Love” can also be called “God”, and that, compared to God, money doesn’t matter. We also decided to marry, after only a week. But we knew people would think we were crazy for deciding so swiftly, so we didn’t tell anyone else. We waited a whole three more weeks before announcing our decision. Most people still thought we were crazy.

It is one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk. I have a sense my more cynical friends, (and at this point maybe I should demote them to “acquaintances”,) were sitting back amused, awaiting my humbling, as “the shit hit the fan”. And, to be honest, I myself was afraid of the same, for I’d been through humbling and embarrassing infatuations before. But this relationship was different. We deeply disappointed the prophets of doom. Then, as if it wasn’t a big enough challenge to provide for three children, God gifted us with a fourth, and then a fifth.

At this point I should probably answer the question, “If I couldn’t even work for a boss, how could I possibly work for a wife?” The answer was that we were “Pluggers”. We just kept plugging, never sure we’d come up with the next month’s mortgage or even the cash for groceries. Always the work appeared and the money was earned, often at the last possible moment, which was what we expected, and had faith would happen.

In the eyes of some acquaintances our attitude was irresponsible.  It required a faith they lacked. They suffered from a “burr under the saddle” called “insecurity”, and felt that all responsible people should compromise greatly to be “secure”. They stayed with deplorable bosses for “the health insurance”, and for the “pension”, and for other “benefits”, but we were free of such chains and quicksand. Our security was Love with a capital “L”, and while Love may not have given us lemonade when we only needed clean water, we seldom truly suffered, and usually blithely breezed through reefs and shoals, somewhat to the annoyance of those who suffered awful jobs they longed to quit, and who dourly predicted (and perhaps even secretly desired) our certain shipwreck, because we didn’t stick to the jobs they were glued to.

This is not to say we sat back very much at all. Pluggers must plug, and that involves hard work, even when the work does not pay very well. Faith involves far more sweat than sloth does.

I think this is actually a very American attitude, perhaps derived from the experiences of settlers, who horrified the Native Americans by arriving in destitute droves to farm (and destroy) their hunting grounds. America’s “Homestead Act” merely made official a phenomenon that was ongoing.

But such settlers often failed. They were expected to live for five years on their “free” land in order for the government to officially deem their ownership “legal”, and government statistics show roughly half of such settlers could not complete the five years. One sees little material success in characters such as “Pa” in the “Little House On The Prairie” books, as they move from failed homestead to failed homestead.  What impresses me more than success is the amazing lack of security such settlers faced, uprooting themselves from former lives to face American wilderness, and conditions of extreme hardship.

American settlers had great (and often unrealistic) faith in their own ability to produce a lush, bumper crop from, in some cases, semi-arid wastelands. Their attitude was in some ways the opposite of those modern men, many of whom are meekly ensconced in the modern welfare state. Many modern men apparently trust cringing, and distrust daring. But what was this thing I call “a settler’s attitude”?

An “attitude” is often a difficult thing to intellectually describe, and this is especially true because “Pluggers” don’t tend to be intellectual. However that which you cannot say in words can sometimes speak in songs, and the spirit of American settlers echoes in their music, and in their song’s humorous attitude towards misfortune.

For example, In “So long,  It’s Been Good To Know You“, Woody Guthrie sings,

The churches was jammed, and the churches was packed,
An’ that dusty old dust storm blowed so black
Preacher could not read a word of his text,
An’ he folded his specs,

an’ he took up collection,
Said:

So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

In the older ballad “Sweet Betsy From Pike,” a verse croons,

Well they soon reached the desert where Betsy gave out 
And down in the sand she lay rollin’ about 
While Ike in great tears looked on in surprise 
Sayin’, “Betsy get up; you’ll get sand in your eyes.”

Singin’, Too-rally-too-rally-too-rally-ray… 

But one song that (to me) best encapsulates the attitude of settlers springs from the unlikely root of a priest of the Church of England, George Herbert (1593-1633). Among other things he collected proverbs from other lands (“outlandish”), and seven years after he died his collection was published, and we derive from it some sayings we still use, such as “His bark is worse than his bite.” One saying we no longer use is, “To him that will, ways are not wanting,” because it morphed into, “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” which first appeared in the English publication “The New Monthly Magazine” in 1823. It was then picked up by the humorist singer-songwriter “Handsome Harry Clifton” (1832-1872) and became a song heard in English music halls in the mid 1860’s, and then crossed the Atlantic and moved with settlers out into the prairies, after the American Civil War.

This life is a difficult riddle
For how many people we see
With faces as long as a fiddle
That ought to be shining with glee.
I am sure in this world there are plenty
Of good things enough for us all
And yet there’s not one out of the twenty
But thinks that his share is too small.

Chorus:
Then what is the use of repining,
For where there’s a will there’s a way,
And tomorrow the sun may be shining
Although it is cloudy today.

Do you ever hear tell of the spider
That tried up the wall hard to climb?
If not, just take that as a guider;
You’ll find it will serve you in time.
Nine times it tried hard to be mounting
And every time it stuck fast
But it tried hard again without counting
And of course it succeeded at last

Chorus

Do you think that by sitting and sighing
You’ll ever obtain all you want?
It’s cowards alone that are crying
And foolishly saying “I can’t”
It’s only by plodding and striving
And laboring up the steep hill
Of life that you’ll ever be thriving
Which you’ll do if you’ve only the will.

Then what is the use of repining,
For where there’s a will there’s a way,
And tomorrow the sun may be shining
Although it is cloudy today.

Laura Ingalls Wilder  (of “Little House On The Prairie” fame), used the above song to happily conclude her most harrowing book, which described a railway-town’s near brush with starvation when blizzards and deep drifts cut the town off from trains, from January until May, during a particularly brutal Dakota winter.

But what is fascinating about the attitude Wilder describes is that it was not the typically American, Horatio Alger (1832-1899), concept of “rags to riches”, epitomized by Alger’s best-seller “Ragged Dick” (1868). Rather it was opposed to such ideals of material success, for “The Long Winter” basically describes an entire town of fugal, moral individuals reduced from riches to rags. Their reward was not a fortune, nor a pension, but merely to survive to see another spring. And what do they do in that springtime? They sing.

This Plugger’s-response resembles the “Whos of Whoville”, in Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (1904-1991) best-seller “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” (1957). After the “Grinch” had stolen every materialistic proof of Christmas, the Who’s still gathered to sing. I can remember sitting in my father’s lap on Christmas morning in 1957 and having that brand-new tale read to me. Over a decade later, as a teenager, I’d argue (only partially in jest) that Geisel (AKA “Dr. Seuss”) was a great American poet, whereas most of my fellow poets, in our snide groups at snide colleges, sucked the split lips of our artificial suffering with a moribund mentality that produced only snivel. Dr. Seuss, despite the genuine suffering of his own life (his chronically-ill wife eventually committed suicide) produced a bright, cheerful children’s poem that influenced America. Why did it have such influence? Because it described what Laura Ingalls Wilder also described in her best-selling children’s book, “The Long Winter”.

And what is that?

It is that there is something worth singing about in simply surviving to see another day. Life is beautiful and precious, in and of itself, irregardless of whether you succeed or fail. In fact the burr of suffering seems strangely beneficial, for it proves that Life persists in spite of adversity, and that Life is indomitable and unquenchable and independent.

Laura Ingalls Wilder left the third verse of Handsome Harry Clifton’s song out, when she quoted it to end “The Long Winter.” The third verse goes:

Some grumble because they’re not married,
And cannot procure a good wife;
Whilst others they wish they had tarried
And long for a bachelor’s life.
To me it is very bewild’ring,
Some grumble, (it must be in fun),
Because they have too many children,
And others because they have none.

Then what is the use of repining,
For where there’s a will there’s a way,
And tomorrow the sun may be shining
Although it is cloudy today.

The fact of the matter is that there is always a reason to complain, if you look for it, but if you take that road you may miss many reasons to smile. On the Path one faces a choice between complaining or entertaining. In a sense it is a situation that reminds me of a Junior High School dance, (which were gruesome experiences, for me).

I would stand on one side of the gym, with lots and lots of beautiful young woman on the other side, and be miserable. Lord! If you could put this old man’s mind back in that boy’s body, I would have skipped across that gym happily and asked girl after girl to dance. Sadly, I instead found reasons to complain. In fact I was so miserable I often wondered why in the world I ever went to such events.

Usually, because I was prone towards being a one-woman-man, I ignored all sorts of opportunity, because there was a particular girl I was fixated on, and she usually was already dancing with some far taller boy who actually grew peach-fuzz on his upper lip, and had grown above five feet tall. I was four-foot-ten, which put me at a disadvantage, [except in “slow dances”, when my face would have been buried between young woman’s breasts.] [Man, Oh Man! If I could put my old man’s mind back in that boy’s body, I don’t think I would have called being-short a “disadvantage!”]

Probably I should leave this subject, before I get myself in trouble. I only bring up dances because in a way it is like looking for a job. Just as I hung back in the Junior High dances, finding reasons to complain despite the lovely girls across the gym, I found reasons, when young, to avoid even attempting to look for work.

Rather than a particular girl across a gym I was infatuated by, who made all other girls worth disdaining, there was a certain job I was infatuated by, that made all other jobs worth disdaining. And what was that job? It was “poet.”

Now the funny thing is that, when you are looking for work, you never see employers looking for a “poet” in the Want Ads. A poet wants to express himself, but that is his work, and not another’s. Others have other work, different from “self-expression.” Therefore, if a poet expects a paycheck, he had better learn to sing while washing dishes.

This was something I learned before I got married. However I would be remiss if I didn’t say I was thirty-seven before I became so wise. Earlier it was agony to push myself out and apply for a job. It was like crossing the gym and asking the most undesirable girl in the universe to dance, and to be honest I sometimes couldn’t do it. I’d rather be homeless and sleep in my car.

How odd it seems that I later found it fun to apply for jobs. I didn’t care if I got the job or not; I just found it fun to fill out the job application in a poetic way, and then watch the face of the fellow considering me as he glanced over the form, interviewing me. Even if I wasn’t the man for the job, the interviewer had fun rejecting me. We’d laugh and tell stories, and I like to think the interviewer never had so much fun rejecting an applicant, before he met me.

I learned this art the one time in my life I was on unemployment, in 1985. I’d only receive $32.00 a week, (or nine hours of pay, at minimum wage, $3.35/hour at that time), and in order to receive this paltry amount I had to provide proof, to the government of New Mexico, that I had looked for work in three places the prior week.

I never actually applied for the job of brain surgeon at the local hospital, but I did apply at other absurdly impossible places, and discovered it can be fun to ask, even if rejection is inevitable.

This was a revelation to me. It was like discovering it is good fun to cross the gym and ask a glorious girl who would never dance with a shrimp like you for a dance, and finding out, even though she will not dance, that you can talk and laugh and learn, all the same. And rarely, (but often enough to lift your spirits), the girl will decide, what the heck, she will dance, just one dance. In like manner, some employers will sometimes hire you, if only for just one day.

“Just one day of work” is not enough to satisfy a person who feels insecure without a pension and other benefits, but it is a bonanza for a drifter living hand-to-mouth. The person who wants “security” and “certainty” misses the bonanzas the insecure understand. As odd as it sounds, the people who are “secure” and “have it made” are missing bonanza after bonanza after bonanza. Blessed are the poor.

Most “Pluggers” don’t intentionally seek to live “on the edge.” They simply were born into childhoods without a silver spoon in sight, and things such as “security” and “certainty” have not been their lot in life. They may hope for the perks of the privileged, the same way many hope they will win the lottery, but such things are like an apple dangled in front of a donkey to keep it plodding forward. Most Pluggers doubt they’ll ever really reach and taste that apple, and therefore the real reason they have the strength to keep plodding on can’t be from the apple they never reach, but rather from the bonanzas they experience, which the “privileged” know little or nothing about. Blessed are the poor.

There is something counter-intuitive about the statement “Blessed are the poor”, for we tend to associate the word “blessing” with wealth, bounty, riches. Wrong.

This is difficult to say, and will sound clumsy as I write it, but it has been my experience that the poor are richer than the rich. Why? Because nothing matters more than contact with the One who blessings come from. In fact blessings themselves have no worth, compared to the One who gives them.

In other words, the Plugger has a heightened sense of what constitutes a “blessing”, due to living so close to the edge. One doesn’t truly appreciate a glass of water until one has been parched by the desert sun. Therefore a person with “security” has a dulled awareness, whereas a Plugger has his awareness heightened. Not that some Pluggers can’t become so discouraged that they become bitter people, but many experience “coincidences” and develop what the “privileged” deem superstition, but which the Plugger feels, often in an unspoken way,  is a communion with the One from whom all blessings flow.

I should probably leave this subject, before I get myself in trouble. I only bring it up to explain the difference between putting your faith in a pension, and putting your faith in something far better, something besides money, something I vaguely called “freedom”, waving my arms inarticulately to the west and pointing at a cloud.

Most Pluggers have a hard time intellectually stating their stance. After all, most are responding to circumstances beyond their control. To people who have a cushion of wealth, and the leisure to construct a stance, a Plugger seems like a person who can’t take a stand or even make a point. A Plugger points like a weather vane, constantly shifting. For a Plugger does not think man controls the climate; he responds to it. He is like the captains of the sailing ships of yore, very respectful-of and responsive-to the wind, whereas the man with money and security and a pension thinks he has a stink-pot cabin-cruiser which can plow straight upwind and ignore all weathers.

Now, if you capitalize the words “wind” and “weathers” in the above paragraph, you can perhaps glimpse how a Plugger might be responding to their Creator, in a manner which might be inarticulate and even unconscious, but which the Creator might notice. And, if you were a Creator whose nature was love, who would you respond to? The Plugger responding to You, or the wealthy with all their attention away on their portfolio, counting the stocks and bonds in their pension like a miser counts cold coins?

This is not to say Pluggers don’t long for comfort, and a life of ease, but they can sing and dance even with such gratification indefinitely postponed.

 

This brings me back to the early days days of my marriage, which I now fondly recall, but which were not so easy to struggle through, at the time. What is good to recall is the amazing faith my wife and I had that we would “get by”, and how that faith was not misplaced, for we did “get by”, (though I should perhaps use the words “squeaked by.”)

Now that I am older and wiser I look back and roll my eyes. I say rude things, like, “What the fuck were we thinking?” Yet we sailed through situations like an elderly woman on a tricycle passing through a terrible ten-car-pile-up on a major downtown intersection without a hair in her bun jarred out of place. In retrospect one cannot look at such history without mentioning unscientific things such as “guardian angels” or “the grace of God” or even, “Manifest Destiny”. However, somewhat amazingly, we each thought we were very practical, and the impractical one was our beloved spouse.

In retrospect our quarrels were delightful, (for our reconciliations created two delightful babies), but, moving on to the specifics, our quarrels were about very interesting stuff, although I don’t imagine the elite really think about such stuff. Unless you have ever faced an empty refrigerator, you cannot deem groceries a topic worth much attention, but I and my young wife had a yearly quarrel, which I will dub the “Harvest Quarrel.”

During the summer we had too much work: I, as a landscaper, and my wife, as the small town “Recreation Director” of the local playground and swimming pool. As winter approached her work vanished, as did mine, (after I made a final bundle raking leaves). We were shifting from having plenty of groceries for our three, then four, then five children, to having none. The stress of this situation resulted in the yearly “Harvest Quarrel.”

The quarrel had two fascinating steps, wherein at first my my wife displayed a flippant disregard for groceries, and then I myself displayed the flippant disregard.

The first step involved the fact that, even after working in the gardens of others all day, I always found time to have a garden of my own. Besides producing a paycheck, I produced actual food.  I would proudly dump dirty produce in my wife’s clean kitchen, and she wasn’t always appreciative. Some of my fresh produce went into delicious dinners, but a shocking (to me) amount seemed to barely pause in the house before heading out to the compost pile.

I had an old-fashioned belief that my wife should be like my mother and grandmother, who had Great-Depression-aversions to seeing even a scrap of food wasted. My grandmother was especially good at making the labor involved look easy, like something she was doing on the side with her little finger, while focused on a more interesting conversation, either with a person working with her, or on the radio. She preserved food while berating the Red Sox for losing again, her work deft yet unconscious, like a taxi driver manipulating through intense city traffic while discussing politics.

During summer’s surplus, when food was cheap, my grandmother canned vegetables in glass jars, or pickled them, or made a sugary jams of fruits. Refrigeration was not necessary. She knew all the old tricks for preserving food, such as corning beef or turning cabbage to sauerkraut, and where to store onions as opposed to where to store potatoes, and had various pantries and cellars delegated for the storage of food. By the time winter rolled around she was ready.  Children were incorporated into this bustle, and I don’t recall grumbling much about it, and at times enjoyed it. My mother might stop at a farmer’s market and score a bargain on a big basket of past-prime shell beans, and this meant I’d sit with my siblings on the back porch shelling them, separating the bad beans from the good, talking about whatever, watching the twittering chimney swifts soar overhead as summer clouds built in the sky.

If there was any grumbling involved, it was about wasting food. Woe unto the child who didn’t finish their dinner. Garbage went to the pig, (or, if you had no pig, to the pig farmer, who made money on the side picking up your garbage), and when the pig was slaughtered  “everything was used but the squeal.”

So much was this constant activity part of my grandmother’s make-up that even when she was old and my grandfather had saved enough to allow her to be a lady of leisure, she could become restless. When the herring were swimming upstream in the spring she seemed a bit offended no men brought her pails of silver fish for her to salt down in big crock-pots.

My wife was not the same. If I plunked a pail of fish down in her kitchen she did not look the slightest bit delighted. The same went for heaps of grubby carrots or dirty potatoes. Only occasionally would she make some jellies or jams, seemingly more for amusement than out of any sense of necessity, and when I brought baskets of red and green tomatoes in before the first fall freeze they sat around on just about every downstairs windowsill, ripening and sometimes rotting, on their way to salads or sauces or the compost pile, but never to canning jars.

This rubbed my fur the wrong way at times. Call it my Yankee heritage if you will, but I just felt winter was a danger we should prepare for, and always was very busy splitting and stacking wood in the fall. My wife could make me a little crazy, for she wouldn’t even rush out to shop before a major winter storm. She preferred to shop right after the storm, and the one time I accompanied her I could see her point; after a storm the store was wonderfully quiet and there were no lines at the register. I could also see her point about tomato sauce; it was much easier to pick up a jar at the market than to can it yourself. All the same, it just didn’t seem right.

I got my revenge by rubbing her fur the wrong way, in my own manner. This occurred when my landscaping was officially ended by the first fall of snow. Even if there were still leaves on lawns, they were buried by white, so I’d put my rakes away and sit by the warm fire, and gaze dreamily out the window, working on a poem about falling snow. After months of hard work it felt good to just compose, but it drove my wife crazy. We had no income, and I was just sitting there, nibbling an eraser. She’d interrupt my composing with some inane question, such as, “What about groceries?” I’d say, “I thought you just bought groceries yesterday.” She’d respond, “But what about next week?” I’d heave a deep sigh, for I knew it was time for our yearly Harvest Quarrel.

It did no good to say “calm down”, for those two words never work, and indeed often have a strangely opposite effect. It also did no good to point out that if she had canned like my grandmother she’s have no worries about groceries because she’d have months of food on the shelves, because if I said that she’d just point out that if I was like my grandfather I’d have a job that lasted through the winter. Neither did it do any good to wax spiritual and preach that we should have faith in God, because she would open her Bible to “Proverbs” and quote, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man“. Lastly, it was equally unhelpful to suggest that if I was left alone to complete my poem about falling snow the result might be a one-hit-wonder that would make us rich, for she would just say I had already written a hundred wonders, and I should be out selling them.

She gave me no peace, and became a complete burr-under-the-saddle. My Dad advised me women look better if you “make them lively”, and I was succeeding in making her lively. (She became especially lively if I used the word “harangue.”) What I actually wanted to do is write about the peace of falling snow, and find a rhyme for the word “silver”, but it was always obvious that only way I was going to get the peace and quiet necessary was if I went out into the snow and drove through it. That was always the conclusion to the Harvest Quarrel.

What then happened always amazed me. I’d very soon come clumping back into the house with snowy boots, shoot my wife a smug look, and say, “I start work at six tomorrow morning. Happy now?” Then I’d go back to the fire, pick up my uncompleted poem about falling snow, and again begin nibbling my eraser, well aware my wife was itching with curiosity.

What amazed me was the ease with which I found work. There had been other times in my life work wasn’t to be had, and I’d roll my eyes to God wondering what He expected me to do.  Other times I rolled my eyes to heaven with a different, happier expression, when I found work with amazing ease, and these were those other times: I’d look down a heartless street steeling my nerve to go to business after business, expecting to experiencing painful rejection after painful rejection, but the very first place would hire me. It happened with surprising frequency, and always felt like the part of a cartoon where someone charges a locked door, lowering their shoulder to smash it down, and just as they reach the door someone opens it.

Not that the jobs were good ones, but I’d lived on the edge so long that heights no longer bothered me. Where some fret about a pension thirty years in the future, I was more concerned about today, and more willing to let tomorrow take care of itself. Also I was less sensitive about rejection, less prone to burst into tears when a job wasn’t available (although that might be an interesting tactic), and less willing to morbidly dwell upon the offence of being refused. I was more curious about other people and midst this curiosity was more able to utterly forget myself and my own problems. Perhaps I was like a sailor who has seen his ship can come through a storm unscathed, and who no longer feels he can only sail in sunny weather.

In fact, when I looked in the mirror, I realized I had changed. When I walked into a business my demeanor was different, switched from overly sensitive and doubtful to cheerful and confident. Nor was it an act. I definitely had in some way matured, and in some ways I now got jobs too swiftly; I now liked job interviews, and, when I had been happily contemplating a couple weeks of interesting discussions with managers over coffee, it could be disappointing to only experience one interview, before getting hired.

It did puff my ego a little to be able to assuage my wife’s worry about groceries so quickly, but it was hard to be too swelled up, as the pay was usually so minuscule that it took some adroit budgeting to make it to spring. We’d have to run up a tab until April, wherever we could. Also, when I sat and thought about it, I really couldn’t take much credit for changing. The “School Of Hard Knocks” had matured me.

But who was the professor? This question seemed more interesting to contemplate than my poem about falling snow, and the page of the notebook in front of me filled with stray doodles, and the scribbled numbers of sketched budgets and altered schedules.

Such a silent guide You are that I never
Knew it was You leading me to follow
Your lead. But black sheep are not so clever
As they believe. When my heart grew hollow
I turned away, and thought I was leading
Myself, but who is really the professor
When slings and arrows leave students bleeding
In life’s School Of Hard Knocks? Yet how tender
You are; how patient, as with the pace of snails
I learned. I called my guide, “my own Free Will”,
But captains are not the ones who fill sails
Like fat bellies. I blundered on until
My free will finally learned how to dance.
Your silent love is what leads this romance.

I should probably stop there, but need to add a coda to finalize the theme about “burrs”.

I think that one thing that makes the attitude of a Plugger so much more upbeat than that of a worrier, (who frets at a threat to a pension far in the future), is a Plugger’s  simple discovery that good things come in bad packages. A Navajo friend once wrote, “Boot camp is a very good thing to have happen only once in your life,” which is an essay in only fifteen words; IE: Certain discipline may be as palatable as cod-liver-oil, but turns out to make you feel better in the end. The pains, bad tastes, foul smells, and itchy burrs are the curriculum of the School Of Hard Knocks, whether or not you believe there is a Professor in charge of how such discipline is dispensed.

Once you have been through such burrs even once, and see that you more than survived, but were actually strangely matured, then burrs in your future seem less repugnant. You are made able to face situations, which once filled you with dread, without fear, or with far less fear. Not that you don’t know enough to come in out of the rain, but if you must stay out you are singing in the rain.

When I walked into a business my demeanor was utterly different when I was forty, completely changed from an overly sensitive and doubtful 18-year-old’s. Some jobs were demeaning, such as folding and collating pages of inane pamphlets containing bosh and humbug, but I could sing in such rain. My fellow workers tended to be “temps” (short for “Temporary Contract Labor”) who worked for less than the regular workers, without benefits, and the regular workers tended to resent temps. But temps were interesting people to talk to, for they tended to be down on their luck, and usually there is a good story behind a downfall. However despite their downfall, and despite being exploited by bosses and disdained by regular workers, temps didn’t retreat in self-pity, nor expect welfare and charity, but rather were the sort who would work a rotten job to claw their way out of their poverty. They were true Pluggers, and I saw a hidden benefit in jobs that had no benefits, for I got to interrogate and interview interesting Pluggers I otherwise would have only a slight chance of ever meeting. The odd thing was some of these people had no idea anyone might find them worth interrogating and interviewing; my interest was something that lit them up; they blossomed under the feeble sunshine of my innocent, simpleton queries. Such a flowering, under the dingy light of forty watt bulbs, made me look over my shoulder, for I knew I’m not so bright, and I wondered why their faces lit up. From whence came the light? It intrigued me, yet, even as this intriguing stuff occurred, all we were doing was folding and collating pamphlets of guff.

This is not to say I didn’t yearn to be out in the falling snow like a boy yearns to escape Algebra class, but so did the other temps; you could see it in the longing light in their eyes as they passed a window. We were all in it together, and there was a sort of camaraderie reminiscent of that seen in soldiers in deplorable circumstances, which led Wilfred Owen to write, “I too have seen God through mud.”

This brings me back to what I stated earlier, which was, (in case you have forgotten), “There is something worth singing about in simply surviving to see another day. Life is beautiful and precious, in and of itself, irregardless of whether you succeed or fail. In fact the burr of suffering seems strangely beneficial, for it proves that Life persists in spite of adversity, and that Life is indomitable and unquenchable and independent.”

The problem with such a realization is that it robs you of some motivation. Once you realize you already have what is most valuable, namely Life, what more do you need? Why even get a job, let alone a pension? Beethoven proved beautiful music doesn’t even require the ability to hear. Nothing is necessary for happiness but Life.

Fortunately Life does contain burrs, which direct us. Your beloved will bring you a concern which, if you have a heart, you will respond to.

Just as my young wife brought up concerns, disturbing my content as I sat by the fire contemplating falling snow, she could disturb my content as I enjoyed folding and collating pamphlets of guff, by urging me to get a better job. Even when minimum wages were raised from $3.35/hour when we met to $4.25/hour when she was first pregnant, it wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t that we were greedy; we were running-up-a-tab at the market, and on our utility bills, even with me working full-time. Running-up-a-tab was a parachute that slowed our decent, enabling us to survive until spring,  (when I’d make $10.00/hour landscaping). But if you made too little in the winter your parachute would be too small, and when you hit spring you’d be up to your neck.

Therefore I, (and indeed most “temps”), required “overtime” to get by. Once you worked over 40 hours your pay would be “time-and-a-half”, (shifting from 4.25/hour to 6.38/hour.) I freely confessed this requirement when I was first hired, during the initial job-interview, not minding much if being so demanding meant I wouldn’t be hired. Yet sometimes it was what got me hired. The boss had some job he urgently needed done in a big hurry, and he desired people who would work overtime, but his regular employees not only might be unwilling to work extra hours, but might have the “benefit” of an earned vacation coming up. In such situations “temps” stepped in to save the day, but, once the day was saved, “temps” would be promptly laid-off. Unemployment may seem a cruel reward for a job-well-done, but I could only fold and collate so long before the work got stale, and I tended to depart such jobs whistling, and looking ahead eagerly to the next chapter.

If I was in the mood to complain then looking for work would have been a burr, and getting laid-off would have been a burr, and my wife’s concern would have been a burr, and I could have been very sour. And I confess there were times I was sour, usually first thing on Monday morning. However I did notice my mood was mysteriously better by Monday’s midday, and a hundred times better at age forty than it had been at age eighteen. Furthermore, being in a better mood about burrs seemed to bring benefits hard to explain. It made sense that an employer might be more likely to hire a cheerful person than a person who radiated shyness and fear, but I seemed to sense a more amazing aspect was involved.

Call it a superstition if you wish, but I felt the “burrs” were actually the prodding of a Good Shepherd’s crook.

It is said God can be hard as steel and soft as butter. The earlier times in my life, when I couldn’t find work no matter how hard I tried, seemed a sort of hard-as-steel time of tough love, as I was educated by the School Of Hard Knocks. For some reason it didn’t make me feel angry at God, but rather utterly dependent, like a small child wearing pajamas with feet. However I also felt that was the normal state of the cruel world. I didn’t expect any soft-as-butter stuff, and was deeply mystified when I went through a time when I was hired wherever I applied.

One autumn, after my wife and I had been through our typical Autumnal Quarrel, it occurred to me, as I stomped out the front door, that it would make life easier if I got a job within walking distance of my house. Both my truck and my wife’s van were old clunkers, and it seemed likely I could save both on gas-money, and on the bother of dealing with break-downs, if I didn’t commute. The problem was that I lived in a small town with few businesses, and the economy was poor. But a friend had told me I might try one place that hired temps for the Christmas Rush. It was a New-Agey place I wouldn’t ordinarily consider, a business that bought herbs and spices in bulk quantities, and broke them down into small packets and jars to sell to retailers.

I figured I’d test my luck; if I was on a streak of getting hired the first place I applied, I might as well try a place roughly a half mile from my front door.  I walked in and filled out an application there. My luck held. I had barely walked back into my house when the phone rang, and the owner asked if I could walk back for an interview. It was a bit of a drag to have to make a U-turn and walk back when I was planning to sit by the fire, but burrs are burrs.

I got the job, of course, but the interview struck me as wonderfully bizarre. The first question I was asked was, “Did you know a mad poet from Harvard named X?”

It just so happened I did know X, and for a time had considered myself a close friend of X’s, over a quarter century in the past when I associated with such crazies, and wasn’t a responsible father of five. I had been a senior in high school and X was a senior at Harvard, and we associated with pot-smoking intellectuals and had amazing conversations about wildly speculative things that one doesn’t usually bring up, at a job interview. To be honest, the question seemed a trick question, and I became very guarded. But honesty compelled me to answer, “Yes, I knew X”.

The second question was, “Do you know what happened to him?”

X was one of those flamboyant people who you may not want to partner with, but who dares things you don’t dare, and goes places you don’t go, and therefore, even though you don’t want to join them, you want to know where their flamboyance led them. I too was very curious, (and secretly fearful X had died in the horrible AIDs epidemic of the 1980’s), but could only answer my future boss with, “I don’t know. I last saw him in 1976, and our last phone-call was in 1984. Later I heard from a friend that he had headed south to join the Sufis of Washington D.C., around 1985, but in the decade since I’ve heard nothing.”

My future boss looked very disappointed, but hired me and told me show up at nine the next morning to learn the ropes of the herbs and spice business. He arose, and I arose, and it seemed the interview was over, but then, as if to explain something, he hesitated, and then added, “X told me you were the greatest poet since Shakespeare.” Throttled by astonishment, I couldn’t think of how to reply. I’m not sure what I said. Likely it was something dismissive. Then I walked home through the snow.

That was a strange walk, in the falling snow. I mean, how many job interviews do you walk into, for some simple job such as packing herbs and spices, without any sort of recommendation, where you get an unasked-for recommendation from someone you lost contact with over a decade in the past, who might even be dead? Not that the recommendation that I was “the greatest poet since Shakespeare” had anything to do with packing herbs and spices. I’d long ago learned poetry had little to do with feeding yourself, let alone feeding a wife and five children.

I’ll confess the strange interview did stir a hope in me that our interview was one of those “chance meetings” you read about in the lives of authors and poets, wherein they are “discovered”, and rise “from rags to riches” overnight, publishing some sort of “one-hit-wonder”.  But this was not the case. We never spoke of X or of poetry again. However there was a strange, unspoken understanding: We had shared-roots in a wild past when mad poets were especially free, and didn’t need to work Real Jobs.

We did have some interesting talks, but I was far more interested in him than he was in me. I learned that when young he had a vision of learning of herbs and spices that could be wonder drugs, perhaps even finding a herb which cured cancer, and that he had labored long and hard, studying botany at Harvard and even travelling to the Amazon, seeking herbal mysteries, but that when push came to shove, and he had a wife and daughter to support, such study didn’t pay the bills. The herbs and spices that paid the bills tended to be mundane things like powdered Cinnamon and Garlic. To make a living he imported bulk quantities of things not locally grown, to sell to people who required smaller amounts.

Someday I’ll hopefully do a better job of describing what a wonderful job I lucked into, because I was too lazy to fix my limping truck and become an ordinary commuter. But for now I’ll give a couple examples of how wonderful the job was.

One of his best sellers was cinnamon. He sold several types, and four-inch-sticks and three-inch-sticks, but most people wanted the powdered stuff. It came in two-hundred pound barrels.  Most households, when they buy powdered cinnamon, want to buy one or two ounces. A restaurant will desire perhaps a pound, and a busy doughnut shop ten, and even a frantic bakery will desire at most twenty-five. No one wants to pay the price of two-hundred pounds, even though the wholesaler basically doubles the price, selling to the retailer. My job as a muscular poet was to man-handle barrels most cooks can ‘t budge, and then break-down the contents to smaller packages.

The second example is bay leaves. All cooks understand the positive effect a leaf or two of bay can have on a soup or stew. However bay does not arrive from Turkey a leaf or two at a time. It arrives in huge, fragrant bales, weighing at least fifty pounds.

My first job, my first day of work, was to manhandle a huge bale of bay-leaves, and then break it down, and amidst the sweet, rustling aroma of this occupation I did not think of the customer, who would receive tiny packets, but rather I was transported to Turkey. Perhaps it was only because I, as a landscaper and farmer, was aware a lot of hard work went into picking and drying and baling and exporting the leaves, but the scent as I worked was evocative of a landscape I had never seen and of people I had never met. Images drifted through my imagination. It was much better than folding and collating pamphlets.

My family approved when I came home smelling of bay, but I was less popular when I had to deal with enormous amounts of garlic powder. For the most part my work involved around twenty everyday herbs, which likely produced around ninety-five percent of the business’s profit. But besides those twenty barrels of herbs there were perhaps a hundred others, holding mysterious herbs I had never heard of. When I filled orders I was swift to learn where to go to find Cinnamon, but sometimes at the bottom of the order there would be an item I had never heard of. Then I would have to search through the barrels in the back of the warehouse for a pound of some such thing as, “Saint John’s Wort”.

My boss’s wife was a bit scornful of such items, because “turnover” was so slow. If you bought a bale of some obscure herb it might be five or even ten years before it was sold, but my boss would not listen to his wife, and would reorder. He seemed to like being an herb-and-spice-place that had the items other places lacked. Also his insistence seemed to be like my own poetry; a thing he did even if it wasn’t profitable; a thing connected to his original reason for focusing on herbs and spices.

I could sense, my first day on the job, that I should be careful when bringing up a question such as, “What is Saint Johns Wort good for”? My boss’s wife would snap, “Absolutely nothing,”  and my boss would look meek, and button his lip. It was obvious she was a burr to him, just as my wife was a burr to me when I wrote poems about falling snow rather than looking for work. And he was a burr to her, by insisting on restocking, just as I was a burr to my wife by insisting on writing poems.

I think it was during the first week that I discovered that, among the obscure items he had in the barrels in the back of his warehouse, he had burrs. Or not the burrs, but the root of the plant that made the burrs, called “Burdock”.

As a landscaper I tended to see Burdock as a rank and obnoxious weed. This was not only because, when my daughters happened to get burrs in their hair, tears resulted, but also because the plant could spring up with amazing vigor, with a tap root which made carrots seem small, and leaves nearly as fat and wide as Rhubarb’s. Here is a Burdock jumping up between my garden’s Rhubarb and Asparagus:

It is hard to be fond of such a rank and persistent weed. My Asparagus and Rhubarb have strong roots which are perennial; there are cases where grandchildren have fed off the plants their grandfather planted fifty years earlier, but burdock is a plant that can invade such a long-standing patch and, with roots equally vigorous, weaken the desired crop. It is hard to see such a burr as desirable.

Yet my new boss was making a small profit selling such roots. This of course piqued my interest, but unfortunately I asked my question when his wife was in earshot, and heard the brusque reply, “Absolutely nothing is good about Burdock.”

I already had concluded that, but was trying to escape my prejudice. My escape occurred soon, due to the fact the warehouse had a tiny “retail shop” in the front of the warehouse. It produced less than 1% of the business’s profit, but I had the feeling my new boss liked talking to people about herbs and spices, and the “retail shop” was more of an excuse to talk than it was a way to make money. However he was out, and I happened to be the only person available, so I had to deal with a customer though I knew next to nothing about herbs and spices.

The customer was a lady from Japan, where burdock root is often used in their cuisine. However she was not looking for fresh and tender roots, suitable for cuisine, but dried roots, for a tea that she claimed had amazing benefits. I became her student, as she praised burdock, but I became her professor, when I told her it didn’t need to be imported from Japan.  After I sold her a pound of the dried root, we stepped outside and I pointed out a few examples of the invasive weed.

Some businessmen might think this a bad policy, for she would have no need to buy dried roots, if she knew she might harvest them from her own yard. All I can say is she did return, from time to time, over the next five years. For that is how long I lasted at this job as a “temp.” It was not a steady job, but one I could count on being steady before Christmas.

As I stated before, it would take another post to tell the tales of this on-again-off-again job. But this post is about the benefits of burrs.

Now it is twenty-four years later, and I am running a Childcare, and part of our haphazard curriculum is a course on “the benefits of Burdock”. Usually I am not officially on duty when this class is taught, but kids find the sight of an old man working in the garden more interesting than what my staff has planned, and they often come drifting over to pester me.  Because my hard-working staff can use a break, I often involve the children in my work, (at times having them cheerfully make mincemeat of child-labor-laws, for example when I have to move a hundred bricks). Other times, for example when I am weeding, I weed less, and create a spontaneous curriculum involving what weeds are very poisonous, such as buttercups, and what weeds are edible, such as chickweed. At some point I always seem to involve them in digging burdock from the garden, and saving the roots.

These roots must be washed:

And then, (after trouble which always occurs when small boys have control of a hose), I show the children how to remove the bitter outer bark of burdock root from the slightly-sweet inner root:

Then they munch. I have a rule, regarding wild foods, which states that they are allowed to spit out anything they don’t like, which is a freedom they seem to enjoy. (Also I become very stern, and put on my most ferocious glower, regarding eating any wild thing without first asking me if it is edible.)

I’ve learned there is no accounting for children’s taste. The most fussy eater may demonstrate a peculiar fondness for some odd plant like Burdock, while the most voracious child may detest the same plant. Also a child who initially spits out a plant may, after watching his small peers munch away and ask me for second helpings, be seen surreptitiously picking up the root he cast away and giving it another chance, or, if he can’t find it, may whine to me for a second helping. Lastly I’ve discovered a sure-fire way to get kids interested is to tell them they won’t like the plant, because “only grown-ups like it.”

I don’t talk much about the medicinal benefits of a plant like Burdock, that I first heard about from the lady from Japan. For one thing, our society seems too focused on pharmaceuticals, and for another thing, the ownership of such knowledge seems a gift to me, and I am not particularly gifted in that regard.

I’ve known people who have an uncanny and often unconscious ability to prepare salads and stews that make people feel better, and cause the recipients to state “you are a natural chef” or “you put love in your cooking”, without thinking the cook is an herbalist or some sort of witch-doctor. But I sense a gift in such people. I think the gift likely has ancient origins, dating from when we were a nomadic people living off the land. Unfortunately the gift, like all gifts, can be misused, (in which case it may be withdrawn), and there are also fraudsters who lack the gift but are gifted in selling snake-oil. During the time I was involved with selling herbs and spices I met some New Age types who managed to make the entire topic of herbs repellent and downright disgusting, because their poorly-hidden desires seemed to be all about orgasms and hallucinations. Just as I like poetry yet avoid poet-societies, I’m interested in herbs but generally avoid herbalists.

Because I lack the true gift, I tend to be more pedantic and scientific, and conduct secret experiments, involving only myself. For example, my son might visit, and notice a glass of greenish sludge by my coffee cup at my computer. Wrinkling his brow, he’ll ask me, “What the heck is that stuff, Dad?” A bit evasively I’ll reply, “boiled Burdock root.” A bit of a smile will cross his face, and he’ll be unable to resist asking, “And?”

There’s no way around it, and I have to confess the secret: While wandering the web and reading about Burdock root I chanced upon a claim it “stimulates the hair follicles of the scalp.” My old follicles could use some stimulation, in my humble opinion, so I decided to conduct an experiment, keeping it secret because I don’t want people to know I am vain. I told my son that so far I had noticed nothing, which is a good thing, because such experiments can backfire and cause immediate baldness. He chuckled and walked away shaking his head slightly.

I sat back and contemplated the blessing of burrs. Even if my thin, gray hair doesn’t start to explosively grow, (making me look like a large dandelion gone to silver seed), it seems the weeds of my life later are revealed to have actually been herbs, and the burrs that made me uncomfortable moved me to my benefit.

Life is far more complicated than our puny minds can grasp, even when we attempt to control it and to guarantee ourselves fat pensions. Repercussions cause repercussion’s repercussions, with events clicking like complicated shots in a game of billiards, with complications clicking onward even years later. When I talked with the mad Harvard poet X at age sixteen, who could foresee it would land me a job at age forty, or that the job would result in me teaching little children about Burdock root, at age sixty-six?

As I thought about it, it seemed those who fixate upon control miss a lot. They miss bonanza after bonanza after bonanza. It seemed better to be a Plugger, leaving control in the hands of the only Mind that sees all repercussions.

As for me, I just do what comes next, and what came next was to start writing something titled, “A Burr’s Blessing.”

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LOCAL VIEW –Dawn’s First Bird–

I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said something along the lines of, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you simply don’t sit down.” I’ve been enjoying the Memorial Day weekend adopting that philosophy. I can’t work with the manly, maniacal ferocity I once could muster, but I sure can potter.

Of course I have to be civil, and attend family barbecues, but even when laughing at a fine story, half my mind is back in the dirt, planning my next pottering.  I’m stiff and sore, but can’t remember ever enjoying my garden the way I’m enjoying it this year.

I’ve adjusted my attitude, (or, to give credit where credit is due, God adjusted my attitude for me), and I simply am not so fired-up and focused on results. Ambiguously, the results are better.

It is difficult to explain. I’ve known for years how desire can spoil things; when young I would meet a nice woman and enjoy engaging conversations, but then desire would creep in, and I soon was not enjoying much of anything.  Noon seemed dark as midnight, which seems a bit foolish now, as one woman I anguished over now has only three teeth left and weighs over three hundred pounds.

God knew best. I have pretty much led a life out of control, buffeted this way and that by circumstances, which tends to make you pray more than you pray when things are in control, and also may be a sign God is in control, for spirituality is more about being freed from desires than it is about getting what you desire. Often it is easier to be free from a desire by not getting it, though not getting-what-we-want does tend to make us sulk.

Back when I was devoted to chain-smoking, I never much liked it when I was especially poor and couldn’t afford cigarettes, but I had to admit my health improved. (Also, it is amazing what you can accomplish, if you crave a cigarette. An old commercial once stated, “I’ll walk a mile for a Camel (brand of cigarette)”, but I’d go farther; I’d spread hot asphalt in a desert under a blazing sun all day for the money to buy some, yet it occurred to me that I was doing all these amazing deeds without a cigarette, which suggested I really didn’t “need” them.)

Just as not-getting what you desire can be a good thing, getting what you desire can cause troubles. I don’t suppose I need to give examples; people can usually think up their own. And we all have met people who “have it made” who are miserable, and who make those around them miserable as well. Although many see God as a great Santa who responds to our Wish List, there are times we wish for the wrong things, and if we put such things up on a pedestal we are creating a “false god” and are probably going to get what we deserve. In some cases we are “given to our sin”, which basically means we stew in our own juices and suffer long and hard, and in other cases we experience a swift and surgical removal of what we desire, which is traumatic but often better, because it is over so swiftly.

I’m sure this idea strikes some as if spirituality is an ultimate spoilsport, lurking about to catch us desiring something, and then snatching it away. (At times my life felt that way, and for a while my motto was, “The right thing is never the rewarding thing.”) However Divinity is described as a “Good Shepherd”, and a shepherd doesn’t want miserable sheep, parched and starved and with moth-eaten wool with with bald patches. Rather God wants his sheep led to greener pastures, or, as Jesus stated, “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

In theory we should desire, but desire what God desires, as that will not wind us up hip-deep in the troubles our own more-ignorant desires often land us in. Of course, I haven’t yet heard a deep voice commanding me, “plant turnips; not rutabaga,” Instead I simply roll with the punches better. When I have a seed-bed nicely tilled and raked-up and ready-to-plant, and then a small stampede of children at my Childcare cross the seedbed and pack it as hard as brick, I no longer bulge eyes and burst blood vessels; I just shrug and say, “Well, I’ll be gummed.” And when, as I transplant seedlings in a neat row, I hear a soft noise behind me and turn to see one of my goats eating seedlings in a neat row, I no longer seek to embed a trowel between its eyes as it cavorts away from my screaming onrush, prancing and kicking its heels. Instead I again simply shrug and say, “Well, I’ll be gummed.”

If nothing else, my blood pressure is lower.

Because the results are no longer so screamingly important, I seem to have better results. I’ve heard that meditation makes one more efficient, but I never was big at sitting cross-legged and chanting, “Aumm”.  But my current attitude seems to have roughly the same effect, in that I work smarter, not harder. I may even write a book about it. If President Trump could write, “The Art Of The Deal“, then maybe I can write “The Art Of The Potter-Around“.

One thing I have noticed is that, because I spend less time grousing, there is far more time to notice little things, and appreciate them. Where I used to fill silence with a lot of noise, switching my radio from station to station, I now enjoy a quiet garden, with only the wind and the occasional twitter of a bird. I’ve even started to enjoy just laying in bed with insomnia:

The last breeze stirred night’s spring leaves, departing.
Then a soft summer silence descended:
Frogs gone silent in the cool; crickets not starting.
Silence was dark, draped velvet, once rended
By the yap of a far fox noting the waning
Moon was rising late, but swiftly mended
By smooth stitchings of peace. Life was gaining
Summer strength in the healing dark. Ended
For a time was all bustle and battle;
But then, so early it sometimes seems
A sort of miracle, before men first rattle
And bang, stirring and starting to chase dreams
With machinery, in their sleep they’ve heard
The glad announcement of dawn’s first bird.

Besides asparagus and rhubarb produced from big roots I planted long ago, this year’s garden has only produced stones and witch-grass, piled at the edge.

As a boy I assumed witch grass got its name because it was a curse in a garden. It sends out long roots, and any broken-off piece of root left behind will shoot up a vigorous new stem of grass. One of the first money-making jobs I ever had as a small boy was to remove witch-grass from a neighbor’s garden, and I recall being appalled how swiftly the work grew tedious, and how long it took an hour to pass so I could collect my 25¢. If anyone had ever suggested I’d ever get pleasure from weeding it I would have called them out of their cotton-pickin’ minds.

Yet I recall only around five-years later, when I was eleven, I started a small garden in the back yard, and our cook-maid-nanny came out to see what I was up to. She was a tough, chain-smoking woman of around forty from a farm up on Prince Edward’s Island, and when she saw me struggling to shake the dirt from a thick turf by hand she abruptly stated, “Here; let me show you how to do that.” I was slightly offended that some mere cook should think she knew more about gardening than my awesome self, but I had to admit it was interesting to watch her. She never touched the turf, instead using a spading fork to toss it about in the air, swiftly reducing it to a dirtless tangle of roots, which she tossed aside. It was obvious she had a lot of practice, in her past. She made quite a vision, wearing an apron and with a cigarette drooping from her lips, but what was most interesting to me was the enjoyment in her eyes. In three or four minutes she’d done the amount of work I’d done in the past hour, at which point she was huffing and puffing. “Guess I’m getting old,” she commented, handing me the fork, “But try it my way. It’s faster.”

What I really learned from her was that one could do such work with enjoyment in their eyes. It was amazing how often I’d remember her, as a gardener dealing with witch-grass over the next fifty years. It turned out there was good money in knowing how to remove witch-grass from a flower bed, as most ladies are not as skilled as that cook was, and the only enjoyment in the eyes of my employers was derived from watching me do the job.

As time passed I learned the weed is called witch-grass because in the past “witch” was the name given to a herbalist. The church often didn’t approve much of people who believed plants could heal, as priests felt God deserved the glory, and there were some bad times when herbalists could be in grave danger (although the danger to herbalists was not as bad as some now describe it, and the real medieval danger-of-execution tended to involve politics, such as being Pro-Catholic or Pro-Protestant.) There were some herbalists who perhaps got too interested in sex and drugs, focusing on herbs that were aphrodisiacs and hallucinogens, and these people may have contributed to the idea of a “wicked witch.” But I honestly believe there were other “white witches” who simply had a God-given gift, when it came to recognizing what plants had what God-given positive effects. (For example, all the benefits of what we call “aspirin” originally came from willow bark.)

And even as a boy I did notice there was something attractive about witch-grass in the spring. Without thinking, we boys would chew it. Also dogs and cats ate it.

Pullets like it as well. When I release the young hens from the fox-proof bunker I’ve constructed for them, first thing in the morning, they charge to the pile of witch-grass I’ve tossed in their pen even before eating their grain.

So, for a pottering fellow like me, I have found a use for the first crop the garden produces. But what to do with the second crop; the piles of stones?

It turns out they are perfect for filling potholes in the Childcare driveway. Of course, I may have to endure a bit of scorn from my oldest son. He thinks it is easier to arrive with an entire dump truck or two of  “hard-pack”, and spread it out with a front-end-loader. But if I did that, what would I do with all my stones? Anyway, pottering involves wheelbarrows and rakes, not dump-trucks and front-end-loaders.

Today’s pottering involved moving a big sheet of black plastic I found wadded up in a corner of the barn from one place in the garden, where I spread it last summer, to another place, where I’m spreading it this year. I have the hunch that the black plastic absorbs so much heat from the summer sun that it cooks the weed-seeds in the soil beneath. There was no sign of life in the soil I exposed, (in the foreground in the picture below.)  (The plastic sheet is moved to the background.)

The problem with weeds is that they have a crafty strategy, regarding their seeds. Not all seeds sprout the first, second or even third year. Therefore they keep coming up, even if you have done a perfect job weeding for one, two or three years. I myself have never been a perfect weeder for even a week, let alone a year. But I never liked the idea of using a herbicide such as “Roundup”, even before the recent worries about it causing lymphoma surfaced. Therefore I have always utilized various sorts of mulching, hot-water-sprays, and lots of elbow grease.  This year I am experimenting with various black “fabrics” that let the rain and air through, but give weeds no light, and also this old sheet of black plastic.

Of course, it may well turn out plastic also has some bad stuff involved, some trace-gas out-vented or some such thing. All sorts of fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides and fungicides have been banned since my family first had a vegetable garden in 1956, (at the time of the Suez Crisis and Hungarian Revolution, when it seemed Atomic War might make food scarce.) The average American is likely loaded with more toxins than you can shake a stick at, and the wonder is we haven’t all grown extra ears and noses. But I figure the cancers started by one toxin are killed off by the cancers started by the next, and through sheer luck we stay in a sort of balance. However it is likely best to grow your own vegetables, and grow them as organically as possible.

After all, Moms have always told us vegetables are good for us, even when they aren’t herbalists. I’ve started looking on line to see what benefits certain plants have, Asparagus surprised me. It turned out it didn’t have one benefit; it had seventeen!

17 Impressive Benefits of Asparagus

 

 

OK. Now time to head off and potter.

LOCAL VIEW –Sixty Longest Days–

I always am struck by the abruptly early daybreaks of May in a slightly absurd way. I feel I am seeing it for the first time. This is absurd because I am sixty-six years old, and logic tells me I have seen it many times before. But perhaps it is made wonderful because northern winters are so lasting, and their nights are so long, and their sunrises are so late, that one especially appreciates the sun so suddenly arising so early. At northern latitudes days get longer with astonishing speed; one week you are driving to work with your headlights on, and a week later you don’t need to turn them on. The transformation is so abrupt that it is hard to be jaded about it. Even an old codger like myself displays a little bit of the wonder children have every day all year.

If your livelihood has anything to do with vegetation, (formerly this involved farming, but now it tends to involve being a “landscaper” and cutting grass), then, hand in hand with the wonder of the abruptly longer days, one is hit by a frenzy, because the same frenzy is felt by vegetation.

Northern plants are very wise, considering they lack brains. They know the growing season is short, and their growth is explosive. Even a non-native plant, transplanted north, demonstrates explosive growth. I once knew a oil worker who had the whim to grow cabbage on the north slope of Alaska. He scraped together a small square of thawed muck from a section of permafrost, planted some cabbage seeds, and then was astounded by how swiftly he had full heads of cabbages. Cabbage is not native to Alaska, but it apparently does well when the sun shines 24 hours a day.

Northern people who deal with plants are made frenetic because they have to deal with frenetic plants. I call it “Farmers Frenzy”, though I have seen it in rich ladies who want to grow roses. It is a state of mind between ordinary ambition and total panic. The northern sunshine seems to state, “Plant now, or forever hold your peace.”

Back in my days as a drifter I once met a fellow-drifter, an old Kansas farmer who, most of the year, was a garrulous old coot who told great tales but preferred the retirement of being a bum to the hard work of farming.

The old farmer deserves more than this synopsis, and I hope to someday write a longer version of this brief biography: He was a fellow who had paid his dues. He had done so in two ways. First, he grew up during the Dust Bowl, part of a tough, tenacious farming-family that refused to let the bank foreclose on their land. Then, as his brothers all gained glory by going off to fight in World War Two, he got stuck back on the farm in Kansas, growing the food that fed the nation. Somewhat accidentally, he made a fortune, but I think he was a little ashamed of making money as his brothers fought fascism. In any case, once his six children were raised, he lost interest in growing wheat, and became a drifter. Likely he was a cause of concern to his family, but he was a blessing to me, because he told the truth about what the Dust Bowl was like. (The media, in calling our current times “the hottest ever”, obviously never took the time to interview such farmers, or to study the temperature records of the 1930’s.)

I knew the fellow for roughly 40 months, and for the most part he was very disinterested in farming, beyond farming being a subject for his reminiscences. In the present tense, he was interested in his retirement. But I did witness him during three springs, and each spring, against his will (it seemed to me) he was hit by Farmer Frenzy. In a situation where, as a drifter, he had no tractor, no seed, and no land, he paced and fretted midst a peculiar urgency, his eyes roaming over the landscape in a hungering way.

For example, on one occasion I saw the old coot, about five-foot-five, take a bunch of far larger Navajo to task. Quite out of the blue he berated their sloth, like a sergeant jawing privates, and stated they should get off their butts and start plowing up some nearby desert sand and plant wheat. The Navajo laughed at him, stating the sand was so dry it couldn’t grow cactus, but he stated the sand was wetter than the dust his family had raised wheat upon in Kansas, during the Dust Bowl, and he then went on to state some rude things about the industry of the Navajo. I cringed, and judged the Kansas fellow’s life-expectancy would be swiftly shortened, but rather than killing the old farmer, the Navajo found him entertaining.

What I took from this experience is that “Farmer Frenzy” is a very real thing, but a thing which one needs to take pains to tame.

On the other hand, “Farmer Frenzy” can be a good thing. It produced the wheat, during World War Two, that defeated Hitler. Yes, guns were important, and troops were important, but if those troops were not fed the guns would have been useless. Kansas farmers deserve credit. Maybe even a monument.

Now I am the age that old farmer was, when I met him on the roadside in 1985, and I remember him as I see myself now experiencing a touch of Farmer Frenzy.

 

       DOUBLE-SONNET: LONGEST DAYS

The sixty longest days are like treasure
Slipping through my fingers. My greed can’t grip
These mercies no man’s muscles can measure
With his farming, though he resolves to whip
Every bean and radish to suck up sunshine,
To command corn to bask in every ray,
Demand bumpers make reaping a fun time,
And stays awake all hours of each long day,
And scorns vacations, snubs all thought of leisure,
Sternly seeks to seize the moment’s value;
To with miser-fingers fondle treasure;
To tell the summer, “I’ll corral you”,
Too soon it passes, like lovely lasses
Getting old, and makes us wind up asses.

But this year I’ll be different. I’ll work
As hard in the hot summer days, but I’ll
Not be such a crab, nor be such a jerk,
And I’ll greet every ache with a smile.
I’ll not care so much about the weighed results
Nor rue the way time goes scooting by.
Even if my harvest is but insults
I’ll give my new philosophy a try.
You see, it seems to me I’ve been too prone
To seeing harvest as a sort of cement.
I wished to freeze joy, make her be my own,
But then I groaned and wondered where joy went.
Now I’m content to watch summer slip by.
My days too grow short. Where joy goes, go I.

LOCAL VIEW –Beautiful Breezes–

Winter may be conceding defeat, at long last, (though they are still getting May snows to our west, in Denver and Minnesota).  After our bit of sleet here last week, the south finally broke through the veritable wall of chill that always seems to keep New England cold, even when the Mid-Atlantic states swelter, most every April (and, this year, into the first half of May).

The dividing line between summery-warmth and early-spring-chill is often shown on weather maps by a warm front approaching New England from the south. We Yankees watch the approach of this warm front with both hope and cynicism.  On rare occasions it flies right past us: I recall one hot spell in the first days of April (in 1990?) when we hit 90ºF, but such events are rare. More often the warm front stalls. Things conspire against it’s progress. The waters south of New England is chilled by winter; mountain ranges to our west allow cold air to crouch low, and to refuse to budge. To our west the warm front may proceed north to Albany, Burlington, Toronto, even Montreal, but it dips south to the east, and can’t cross New England.

The warm front is attached to a storm to our west, and the south winds ahead of that storm are assisted by high pressure to our east, (which is a westward extension of the Azores High, locally known as the Bermuda High).  As the storm is deflected to our north by this high, it eventually finds a “weakness” and proceeds east to our north, “over the top” of the high pressure. As the storm passes to our north it drags a cold front south, and the cold front usually passes over us just as the warm front is tantalizingly close, brushing the warm front (and all its warm air) out to sea.

If the cold front is powerful, then clear, crisp weather follows, but if the cold front is feeble, and if the Bermuda High is strong, the cold front becomes stationary just to our south, and dreary weather continues, as the stationary front eventually becomes a warm front as the next storm approaches. Sometimes the front undulates like bumps on a shaken jump-rope, and a series of weak storms pass.  But this isn’t all that interesting, unless you are a meteorologist. In fact it irks you, if you are stuck in New England, suffering cold and cloudy weather, craving spring.

By May, to our north, the nights are getting short and the days very long, and there is simply no way the north can generate arctic air, with so much sunshine. Rather than “arctic fronts” the cold fronts start to be called “polar fronts”.  Also the boundary between the north and south retreats north, as does the “storm track”. Therefore it is usually May when we finally see some truly summer-like air make it this far north. Hallelujah!

I will post all the interesting maps at the end of this post, but, knowing some are bored by maps (an attitude which I fail to understand, but respect), I’ll simply state what we experienced.

One thing I should mention is that an indicator of clean waters, called by some “the State Bird of Maine”, appears just when the weather gets nice. It is called “the black fly.”  It is a reason many who move to New Hampshire depart after a summer or two. If you work outside, as I do, you tend to like cold mornings, as black flies don’t pester until temperatures approach 60ºF, and also you tend to like breezy days, when swarms of insidious insects try like heck to swim upstream and get to you, but fail, just downwind.

One nice thing about this cold and wet spring is that the chill kept the black flies at bay. I got lots of vegetable gardening done. However it was also weather great for growing grass, but not so great for mowing, as the grass was too wet.

At this point I should mention another thing. I draw a distinction between gardening and gardening. Eh? My distinction boils down to this: “Can you eat it?” I spent years, even decades, working as a so-called “landscaper” for charming, rich old ladies, producing a crop you could have stored in a teacup. It wasn’t a total waste, for my work did feed me, my wife, and five children, but it bugged me that no actual food was produced. The old ladies had money, and their pay bought food, but all our work in gardens produced no actual food. Therefore, to this day, I have an almost allergic reaction towards non-productive gardening; (IE: “landscaping”.) I don’t mind growing sunflowers (seeds are high in protein), or roses (rose-hips are high in vitamin C) or day lilies (buds and wilted blooms make a delicious soup) but I very much mind cutting the grass. No one eats the grass. It might be acceptable if the cut grass was fed to livestock, which you could eat, but it isn’t.

In any case, my wife doesn’t want to hear my brilliant arguments. When the grass at our Farm-Childcare gets long, she believes we look more “professional” if it is cut. Because I believe I should chose my battles, I meekly cut the damn stuff. Fortunately it has been so rainy this spring that I haven’t often had the ability to cut the damn grass. But consequently the grass has gotten deep. I have noticed my wife giving me glances of an aggrieved sort. The time has come to act, or face consequences.

Yesterday would have been a perfect day to mow, as it was hot and muggy, and the black flies came swarming out. Back in the day I could keep them away by chain-smoking, as they don’t like smoke or nicotine, but since my lungs told me I had to quit such fly-repellent, I have found an inferior repellent is the exhaust of a mower. But yesterday, just when the grass started to dry out, the humid heat would produce a drenching downpour, and therefore the best use of my time was in the vegetable garden, where I produced future food for humans by planting seeds, and was present-tense food for clouds of hungry black flies.

Today would have been a perfect day to work in the vegetable garden, as the surge of tropical air fed a storm passing to our north, and as it strengthened it brought south a cold front, and then, as the departing storm strengthened further, the winds increased to a point where the average speed approached 20 mph, and a few gusts approached 50. There was not a black fly in sight.

At this point I should mention a final thing. At the northern latitude where I live you had better plant as early as you can. You have a limited “window of opportunity”. The growing season is so short that many crops will fail to mature, if you wait too long. Furthermore the sun is as high in late May as it is in early August. Farmers know that, after early August, the sun gets too low, and growing slows down. If you plant a bean after early August, it may sprout more quickly than it does in May, but then the sun is so low the bean grows in slow motion. If you plant in May you see results fast.

Therefore, on a breezy day in May, without a black fly in sight, the last thing I wanted to do was mow the grass. Yet I had to do it. I approached the mower with a bad attitude. To my own amazement I swiftly felt I was more lucky than I believed possible.

The grass was so long (and my rider-mower has such problems) that I had to creep, and the job took forever. (I exaggerate, but it did take hours.) Yet by the time I was done I felt blessed, for I can think of no other way I could have been forced to sit on my duff outside, and witness how wildly beautiful a windy day in May actually is.

There are times it is good to see what an ass you are. Behind my mower, I left cropped turf, basically a Marine crew-cut, as ahead of my mower I witnessed long grass responding to the wind. Have you ever watched long grasses on a windy day? How they ripple and shimmer? And sink and bound-back? How beautiful grass can be, yet what beauty was I making? Producing cropped turf behind me, that fed none?  (Maybe this experience should make me more understanding of those who cut me down, feeding none). In any case, it was amazing that the long grass I detested, when I began, became grass that was my guru:

What a wonderful windy wind it was
With gulped air clear from Canada; sky clear
As well; green grasses displaying the laws
Of brisk breezes; bounding far faster than deer
On the run; and shining and shimmering,
Rippling in clear sun’s pure white: A cool light
So different from yesterday’s simmering
Tropical humidity: Sheer delight
Whisking away the wetness; sweet sighing
Drying the dampness, then deeply roaring
To make new-leafed boughs bow, and trying
To make grasses bow. But bowing’s boring
If you’re hay in the wind. Instead, you prance,
And make ups-and-downs be part of your dance.

(To those of more scientific inclinations, I hope to find time to update this post with meteorological maps explaining the situation which led to the above sonnet.)

*******

Here are the promised maps, (from the Weatherbell site, which offers a 7-day free trial subscription, if you love weather maps.)

Yesterday’s map shows a strengthening 995 mb low departing over Nova Scotia, with strong breezes (blue) in its wake, and a cool, Canadian high-pressure pulled down over the Great Lakes to our west. The “Bermuda High” that gave us warm south winds is weakened to a small circle off Florida,  partially by a sub-tropical storm (actually given the name “Andrea”) moving through it and out to sea over Bermuda. As “Andrea” fades northeast the Azores High, to the lower right margin, will again extend west and combine with the unusually strong (for southerly latitudes) 990 mb low over Nebraska, which gave Denver snow on its cold side, and which is drawing warm air from the Gulf of Mexico on its warm side (and causing tornadoes where the cold and warm clash), and south winds will surge north again.

AA1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_conus_1

The Canadian High suppressed the above-normal warmth (red) to the southeast states, as much of the north and west was below-normal. (Blue, green and purple.) The cold and rain to the west is seriously delaying spring planting in America’s breadbasket.

AA2 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_1

The warmth is expected to rebound in the east in two days:

AA3 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_10

And then a ripple of cold again rides “over the top” of the high pressure, perhaps giving us thunder in three days.

AA4 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_12

The upper-air 500 mb maps have shown a stubborn ridge in the east, and deep trofs to the west that are forced to head north and then ripple up and over the eastern ridge.  Yesterday’s map showed above-normal pressures weakened to the east by “Andrea”, (light red) as the trof to the west is impressively below-normal (purple). The last trof, which was impressive out west, is far weaker, as it reaches Maine.

AA5 gfs_z500_sig_conus_1

If this pattern persists some places out west might not be able to plant at all, which makes my small, experimental garden a little more meaningful.

UNLESS YOU BECOME AS A CHILD

I’m getting old. I think I may even be starting to show symptoms of “second childhood”. Despite a return to cold and wet weather I failed to muster the proper attitude of dour, sardonic sarcasm, and instead continued to potter about the Childcare’s garden quite contentedly. Lots went wrong, but it failed to piss me off. Children ran through freshly seeded plots, and I shrugged it off. The radio reported politicians behaving like idiots, and I chuckled rather than raved. What was wrong with me?

When the United States sent an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf, and Iran sneered it could take the carrier out with missiles, and I didn’t immediately thrash about in agony over my failures to be prepared for Armageddon, I checked my pulse. I wasn’t dead, so then I wondered if someone drugged my coffee. It just wasn’t like me to remain calm.

You see, according to my original script, by now my Farm-childcare was suppose to be more developed than it is. Using the extra income I’d make from either a best-seller or a hit-song, I’d be able to afford restoring the land to the productivity it achieved around 1860, when it produced enough to feed perhaps a hundred people (and make just enough money to raise a family). That may not be enough to profitably compete with modern agribusiness, but it would be a boon to my community in a wartime situation, when food supplies from far away might be cut off. It is a complete failure on my part that, even after years of effort, the farm at best could feed two or three. Ninety-seven neighbors might starve, because I failed to write a hit song.

Shame. Shame on me. How dare I potter about whistling? I should be cursing my weakness, and the failure of my society to pay me millions for my poems. I should be pacing like a tiger in it’s cage, not happily running like a hamster in its wheel.

What ponders the hamster, watching its wheel
And wondering if it should go for a spin?
It knows spin goes nowhere; sees that the deal
Is non-profit. Does it grin a small grin
All the same? And how about my labors?
My poems unpublished? My soil’s hilled beans?
My good deeds done for nobody-neighbors?
I grin a small grin when I think how it means
So little compared to what’s Eternity’s,
Then think how God may be pleased if I spin
My wheel right. Solomon’s futilities
Be damned. It simply isn’t a sin
To stretch my old limbs in the wheel and get sore
When my dance is for God, and not to gain more.

Perhaps part of second childhood is having a decrease of motivating hormones. There are ads on the radio stating “erectile dysfunction” is some sort of serious problem I should seek help for, like a drug addict seeking detox and rehab, (though, looking back, it seems “erectile function” got me in far more trouble than “dysfunction” ever did.) Hormones seemed to fuel desire, and then lots of frustration when desire wasn’t fulfilled, (and some joy but also a strange dissatisfaction when I got what I wanted), yet both sides of that desire-coin can be avoided when you skip the desire altogether. Not that I sought desirelessness like some Yogi in the Himalayas. It just happens when you get older, to some a curse but to others a blessing.

I happened to be in a state of mind where second childhood felt like a blessing even in the rain, and then the sun came out.

With the sun as high as it is in early August, the delayed spring exploded, with buds bursting to unfolding leaves. If you have ever dealt with farmers when “June is busting out all over” you know they enter a state of manic frenzy.  But I just couldn’t quite do it. I continued to potter, and failed at farmer-frenzy.

Formerly failure stung like a whip, and like a whip it spurred greater effort, but after fifty years that gets old. A man does his best with his gifts, and beyond that he can do no more.

What I just wrote is more profound than it looks, and young artists should take heed: If you are fated to be a Norman Rockwell then fate will supply you with help, and a Saturday Evening Post will appear to make giving your gift easier. Study the lives of artists who achieved fame and success and you’ll see none made it alone. The coincidental meetings and “lucky breaks” are astounding, and may make young artists jealous that they see no “lucky breaks”, yet such jealousy only occurs because they don’t see fame and success can be a pathway to misery, nor see that it can be very good luck to avoid all that, and instead lead a quiet life with a good spouse, unnoticed and untroubled, and blessed with far more tranquility than fame ever offers.

It has started to occur to me that it is lucky I never became a one-hit-wonder and gained the cash that would allow me to demonstrate how productive my “failed” farm (and hundreds of thousands of other “failed” farms) might be. Such success sounds like ceaseless work of the restless sort, when I prefer work of the pottering, restful sort. I understand I am blessed, (though some might call my luck a blessing in disguise, a sort of silver lining in the gloomy clouds of failure).

One failure many farmers face is that cute, lovable chicks become horrible beasts called “pullets”. They are basically dinosaurs hiding their reptilian nature with feathers. They neither cluck nor lay eggs like hens, and instead are the annoying adolescents of the chicken world.  They make the innocent and adorable peeping of chicks into a peeping so annoying you want to kick them. Therefore all the people who were so eager to help me when the birds were cute chicks lose interest when they become gawky, demanding pullets. Therefore you’d think pullets would like me, their only loyal and true friend. But no, the word “thank you” is not in their vocabulary, and if I am at all late they rush to the door of their pen hurling peeping insults at me, crowd about my feet and never thank me for not stepping on them, and then dig into their food without a look backwards in gratitude. (Even dogs at least wag their tails at you while gulping down their dinner.)

Some farmer’s wives, through prolonged patience and kindness, can can eventually civilize these dinosaur pullets to a degree where, as hens, they strut into a farmhouse and hop up into the kind woman’s lap to be petted as she watches TV in the evening. However, as pullets, they are all far from such civilization, and few farmers have the patience and kindness necessary to generate warm and fuzzy feelings towards a dinosaur. Yet something about getting old and gray allows me to like the birds even when they only pause from fighting each other over food to give a glare with all the beaming warmth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

If I can feel pleased by even a pullet’s glare, then I can be pleased by other things, more easy and favorable, and less reptilian.

For example, I neglected some things last year, such as my patches of Rhubarb and Asparagus, and therefore I should be punished this year with failed crops. However Rhubarb and Asparagus do not forget the wheelbarrows of manure they were fed in prior years, an overcame the competition of last summer’s weeds, and grew even more prosperous, with root systems becoming even more vigorous. In fact this spring, for every shoot of asparagus I cut, three more spring up.

Here’s another example of how my weakness (being old and lazy) strangely blesses me:

I’ve sadly faced the fact I can’t weed like I once did. Nor can I hire the young and strong to sweat in the sun like I once did, (because I haven’t sold my hit song yet). Therefore I decided to buy a fabric that rich people use around the base of their their roses, to prevent weeds. It costs a pretty penny, but with hourly wages rising the fabric costs much less than a human. Also in theory the fabric is less work; you sweat under the sun laying it but then get to sit back, where old-style weeding was a constant battle. Then I discovered it had a further benefit, besides blocking the growth of weeds. Because it was black, it absorbed the sunlight. Even on a cloudy day (because the sun rides as high as early August) enough radiance penetrated clouds to make the fabric slightly warm, even when rain mixed with sleet, and therefore, because the soil beneath the fabric was made warmer, my peas germinated more swiftly, and are two weeks ahead of friends who planted at the same time without black fabric. Who would believe being lazy could have such a benefit?

In conclusion, the decrepitude of old age is turning out to be more pleasurable than I expected.  Who would think failure could be such fun? It makes me stop and think, for it is so contrary to logic. How can an old geezer’s impotency have such potency? How can becoming desireless give me what I desire?

I don’t claim to fathom what I’m glimpsing. But it does seem my second childhood has some of the qualities of the first, and, because I run a Childcare, I have ample opportunity to study children as they get utterly stoned on the narcotic called “Spring”, and then to think about how Jesus stated we must become like such irresponsible little individuals, if we are to ever taste bliss.

How to regain joys barefoot boys heft
When they’re walking whistling down summer’s road
Freed from school’s failures, from “F” after “F”
And all that shame? They have shed such a load
Of ignominy. They are free, free, free of it.
The final school bell ends a fifteen round fight
And they’re the loser, but they don’t care a whit
About such unforgiving displays of might,
And find forgiveness in summer sunshine.
How can they be so certain they’re embraced?
They’ve achieved nothing, and yet a divine
Compassion is their fate. Surely they’re placed
On the level of angels. Their whistling
Is praises to God, who smiles, listening.

LOCAL VIEW –Her Hardest Hue To Hold–

it’s a cold, black night, 37ºF with sleet occasionally tapping the window pane, mixing in with the icy rain. Not the start of an Ice Age, (I hope), for I’ve seen it snow in May before, but definitely not Global Warming. Tomorrow’s high temperature could be twenty-five degrees below “normal”. Not that we are ever really normal, around here.

It’s a good night to look at the bright side. Some springs get off to a fast start with a blast of heat, and daffodils bloom and wither on the same day, but this year they have lasted nearly a fortnight in the cold. Blooms usually don’t last so long even in a florist’s refrigerator.

In one way the chill is a dream-come-true, because there is a part of me that wants to hit the pause-button, every spring. Spring has a habit of leaping past, all too fleeting and intangible, like time through an old man’s fingers. There is something beautiful in springtime which I deeply want to savor, if not grasp.

First green’s gold’s hard to hold in mystic May
As all the twigs get lacy, before shade’s
Grown the cool, green dark of June. Sunbeams play
In the gold glades, where even a shy maid’s
Unafraid to pass me walking through woods.
The wonder awes. The breeze isn’t hushing
Summer’s hush; soft leaves gentle winds; no “shoulds”
Or “coulds” or “woulds” list and schedule crushing
Madness in my mind. Heavy boots are shed
And I walk light-footed and light-hearted
Through lime-gold light. Have I died? Am I led
To see the bright end of what God’s started?
Like dawn after dark, wondrously uplifted
By healing from bed, the whole world is gifted.

There. At least I attempted to sketch the fleeting wonder. Robert Frost’s sketch was more succinct:

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

But I disagree with the master, in terms of the grief. There is something in spring that is the exact opposite of grief. I think the grief is due to our desire to capture it, to clutch it in a fist like a brute picking flowers.

I spent a while attempting to capture it, (though hopefully not like a brute), with a camera, but felt hopelessly inadequate. It was like trying to catch a sunbeam with a net.

What I wanted to capture was the way the first shade of spring is so green-golden it can hardly be called “shade.” It is more of a light than a shade, but cameras have a hard time with such subtlety. The sky was too bright, and made the light coming through the leaves look too dark.

The images were actually better looking away from the sun, though that view utterly lacked the enchantment of light coming through leaves.

During our few sunny spells midst weeks of rain I snapped picture after picture, and few came close to the reality I wandered through. It was fairly obvious I would spoil the joy if I persisted in trying to capture it. Rather than joyous I’d be frustrated. But I couldn’t help myself, I suppose because one can’t help but exclaim when one sees something beautiful. Perhaps it is a bit crude, like a teen-aged boy releasing a long, low whistle when he sees a gorgeous girl, but it was what it was.

At some point the desire to grip spring like a strangler gave way to merely traveling through it, like a wayfarer on a road.

I think, in the end, my saving gurus were the small boys at my Childcare. Also my dog. And my goats. They had no desire to be artists and take pictures or write sonnets, and instead they galloped and pranced, without the need to choreograph like artistic dancers, but rather like goats and dogs and boys. They are what they are.

Of course, there is always someone who will object to such undisciplined skipping and gamboling. Bureaucrats might frown to see boys walking by a pond without coast-guard approved life-jackets, but fortunately the closest thing to a bureaucrat around was me. In our case the nearby nags were a bunch of Canada Geese. Apparently we had no business disrespecting the invisible no-trespassing signs they had laid out to keep all in proper order, and came swimming up like a gang of hooligans bugling their baritone-to-falsetto yodeling.

The boys refused to have their joy depressed, and, displaying a complete disregard for fellow species and the ecosystem, told the geese that they refused to allow their joy to be intimidated.

The battle was prolonged and furious, but in the end everyone was happy and no one got hurt. (Six-year-old’s have weak arms, and the geese were too smart to draw closer than twenty yards.) A weakling voice in the back of my mind was feebly telling me the episode was politically incorrect, but another was voice was telling me spring itself is politically incorrect, and instead sung like Julie Andrews:

Tra la, it’s May, the lusty Month of May;
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray.
Tra la, it’s here: That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear….

Every year I wonder if it can possibly happen again, and every year I am surprised when it actually does happen again: Spring!

My wife left town for a few days to help organize a baby-shower for my daughter-in-law in Maine, and this enabled me to really get into the spirit of spring by playing hooky an entire weekend:

I skipped church on a dull Sunday, and I
Immediately heard a sweet choir sing.
Though spring lay gray under a charcoal sky
Light shone on me. “What the heck’s happening?”
I wondered, “Where is my dose of mortal guilt?”
All I felt was a bubbling gladness.
There was no black burden to make spirits wilt
And only a day free of such sadness.
I felt like a boy when school has let out
For the summer. With sweet spring in my stride
I crossed the gray world. My heart yearned to shout
“I’m free as a bird” but I hugged it inside
And let birds do the singing. God alone knows
How I worshiped, as from the dead I arose.

************

My wife away, I had beer for breakfast,
Then got on my knees in the garden to plant.
Unshaven, uncombed, I happily messed
In mud for hours, and none said, “You can’t.”
Dirty and sweaty, I felt palms get gritty
And pitied poor bankers sans-dirt-under-nails.
Who needs a penthouse atop a loud city?
Who needs more money when cash always fails
To purchase what toil can give me for free?
Busy as Beaver, I find I forget
To pity myself, and hum like Sir Bee
From flower to flower, and yet,
Though small as an ant, under sky too tall,
I also am huge, for I’m part of it all.

These are good things to remember, on a stormy night with sleet tapping at the window panes in May. And one odd aspect is the realization that Spring’s joy is not due to having desire fulfilled, nor due to renouncing desire, but simply by skipping desire altogether. It is the ultimate hooky.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Death Spiral Debunked For Umpteenth Time–

I have lost a lot of my interest in the arctic, because the nameless “left” has largely retreated from that battle. Not that they have surrendered, and confessed that their “Global Warming” panic was merely a political creation. In the last month one young Democrat running for president (in 2028) has claimed the world will end in 12 years “if we don’t do something” about Global Warming. Not to be outdone, a second Democrat candidate (for 2020) claimed the world would end in only 10 years, “if we don’t do something.” The political posturing gets far more attention than any actual facts about sea-ice, which makes truly interesting science hard to find.

Unfortunately (for such candidates) the public is growing jaded.  The situation is like being long ago told, by a commercial, “Buy Now! The sale ends at midnight!”  The ploy might have worked the first time, but a lot of midnights have passed since then, and yet the same inane advertisement keeps running. The public has realized the sale really doesn’t end at midnight, and all further exclaiming about such an “end” looks increasingly insincere, if not silly. No one is buying it…….or are they?

I find myself studying the delusion and the deluded more than the actual sea-ice. The arctic sea-ice was suppose to be gone by now. We’ve been hearing the Alarmist guff about an ice-free Pole for at least thirteen years. (I first heard an earlier hippy-version way back in 1971, back when we used to sit around deciding how the world was going to end, so we wouldn’t have to get a Real Job.) This headline’s from 2008:

The only way politicians can continue to repeat such refuted claims, without understanding it makes them look stupid, is because they have been educated that making such refuted claims makes them look wise. Not only have they been spoon-fed untruths, but they have not been taught to analyze and correct. They have “drunk the Kool-aid,” ingesting the poison of false values while blithely thinking it is virtuous to do so. I am turning into an old crank, for while my own children seem to have grown up with brains that function, young politicians make me feel that beyond my walls we have raised a generation of imbeciles.

While I do not like the word “reeducation”, (due to its association with communist atrocities and brutality), it seems to me these brainwashed people need to be awoken to the fact they have been lied to.  Not that I advocate any sort of forced “deprogramming”,  but mistaken people need to see their mistakes. But such persuasion is never easy, for a number of reasons.

First, the human ego never likes being told it is wrong. Being wrong involves crumpling up neatly-drawn plans and throwing stuff away and going back to the drawing board, which is work. In the game of “snakes and ladders”, facing-a-mistake is a snake, and people prefer ladders. People prefer progress, however, as engineers know, it is far better to face mistakes early, before you build, than to build and then have a building come crashing down. (“Global Warming” may be now be facing a political version of the latter.)

Second, young people have an innocent trust that their teachers know what they are talking about. Some teachers don’t, and only repeat what they see in books, in a robotic manner. It hurts young idealists to have their trust in teachers broken, and to understand some teachers define “teaching” as being more like a parrot, than as being a person who truly understands the subject they are talking about.

Third, people find it hard to believe that their fellow man could lie to their face, willingly and willfully, and with full knowledge they are perpetuating a deceit. One might expect such evil behavior in a “bad guy” with a black hat and twirled mustache who snickers “Nyah-ha-ha” in a movie, but not in someone they feel is a friend. To realize another is treating you as a sucker admits you have been, to some degree, a sucker, (up to that point, at least), and no one likes admitting they’ve been a fool.

The above difficulties are exacerbated when false values include making-money and/or gaining-awards and/or basking-in-the-flattery-of-social-prestige. We tend to prefer employment to being unemployed, financial security to anxiety, acceptance to rejection, and acclaim to being ostracized.  Because we cannot get everything we desire, we must at times compromise and, sad to say, some of our compromises are mistakes. For money we compromise when we shouldn’t, for acceptance we compromise when we shouldn’t, for peace we compromise when we shouldn’t, and so on.

In the case of Global Warming the exacerbation was extreme because literally trillions of dollars were involved. In attempting to seek out the origins of the fallacy, one suspects some very rich people had to be at Global Warming’s roots.

For this reason some suspect the very wealthy members of the “Club Of Rome”, (formed over a half century ago in 1968), have been behind much of the Global Warming advocacy. They announced, (in “The Limits To Growth“, published in 1972), that mankind was running out of resources and time. Because they had so much money and power, they seemed to feel God had placed them in the position to save mankind from a disaster, which they felt was sure to come if populations kept increasing as resources ran out. They gloomily foresaw the degradation of the environment to a degree where the entire planet would become an overgrazed, industrial wasteland and desert, (and they based their ideas on computer models, even back when only very rich men could afford computers). In 1970 they foresaw the disaster would be upon us by 1990.

Others pointed out, and continue to point out, that their computer models contained some underlying assumptions that were very pessimistic, and which over the past half-century have proven untrue.  Robert Solow, winner of the Noble prize for Economics, described the Club of Rome’s ideas as “amateurish” and “simplistic”. The Club Of Rome in fact didn’t see how innovative humanity can be, when faced with problems. (This has not discouraged the Club Of Rome from continuing to forecast doom, and their computer models continue to foresee the collapse of civilization, now confidently expected to occur in the middle of the 21st century.)

The Club of Rome likely does not stand alone on the pedestal of blame, but they publish their ideas, and therefore are more exposed. After the Soviet Union fell on Christmas, 1991, they didn’t rejoice at the end of the Cold War, but instead worried that mankind would lack an enemy to fight, stating, in The First Global Revolution, “Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised.”

Particularly cynical (to me) is the statement by King & Schneider, “In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”

This gloomy view of mankind and its future seemed to generate a need to create a scapegoat for man to fight, and furthermore to encourage a sort of “ends-justify-the-means” mentality wherein it was acceptable to lie, in the process of creating the scapegoat humanity could rally around fighting. I don’t know why they didn’t feel they could just tell the truth, but I imagine an element of condescending snobbishness was involved, wherein they felt humanity was just too stupid to be told the truth. In truth they themselves were the stupid ones, for in the end Highest Truth inevitably works its way to the surface, and it is then that liars have egg on their face.

In a sense we are now seeing that Abraham Lincoln spoke truth when he stated, “You cannot fool all of the people all of the time,” but Lincoln began that statement with, “You can fool some of the people all of the time”, and that is what we are now dealing with: A sort of residue of trusting people, brought up to see “carbon” as a scapegoat, and as a foe.

Some describe these trusting people as “sheeple”, which seems a bit snide and condescending to me. I actually find trusting people far easier to work with. But a problem occurs when it dawns on them they can’t trust. An entire range of reactions is then possible, from apathy to panic to fury to humor to a white-hot determination to stand for Truth.  History demonstrates that when faced with such duress some nations crumble, while others experience a “Finest Hour”.

It seems plain to me the United States has arrived at such a tipping point. I have no idea how things will turn out, but do know that at such times every voice matters. While it can be difficult and even dangerous to speak the voice of reason among the raging, often such a voice can turn the tide, and has great influence among the silent even if the speaker is shown the door. The “left” has been all too willing to utilize this “voice” in a shrieking and impolite manner, protesting as conservatives attempt to speak, but conservatives must persist, (hopefully in more soothing tones), if the United States is to remain a two-party-system where Freedom, especially Freedom Of Speech, is a way of life.

Therefore, yawning slightly, I will again debunk what has already been debunked. And that is the idea that the sea-ice over the North Pole is in a “Death Spiral”, and also that, if the sea-ice ever did melt completely away, it would have terrible consequences. While debunking I’ll also point out some attributes of the strange mental state called “Alarmism”.

The “Death Spiral” idea is silly because the sea-ice has melted away in the recent past, without terrible consequences, (and in fact likely with pleasant consequences, in many northern lands).

The evidence is there, but there has been an effort to hide it. I know this sounds a bit paranoid and crazy, but in order to create a “narrative” wherein people could become bug-eyed about sea-ice melting, one had to “erase” the fact it has happened before. The most notable incident involved a scientist being told “we have to erase the Medieval Warm Period”. However the effort to “erase” evidence that disproves the so-called “narrative” has been far more widespread and absurd. Because so much money has been involved, it has pulled the strings of weak people who allowed themselves become puppets for the production of propaganda. Meanwhile such manipulation  of monies completely baffled the honest scientists, who care far more about science than “propaganda”, even to a degree where they forget to deposit their paychecks at the bank, until the bank (or their wife) complains.

I wish I had the time to entertain you with all the examples of this silliness I have witnessed. The book would be hilarious, were it not for the fact some very decent and honest scientists have abruptly seen their funding denied, because their honesty clashed with the “narrative”.

I don’t have the time, and instead will merely mention the funding dried up, all of a sudden, when it came to placing cameras on the sea-ice on the Arctic Sea. Where we once could see what was going on up there, a sort of iron curtain has fallen. Only four years ago there were, at one point, eight functioning cameras sending us pictures. Now there are none. What happened?

I’ll give you my take, which is that initially the pictures supported the “narrative”, but then slowly such images began to undermine the “narrative”, at which point the pictures were no longer welcome. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it just seems odd that, even as it became far cheaper to place such cameras, suddenly there was no money available to do so.

Initially the cameras supported the “narrative” because they showed sea-ice melting in the summer. In actual fact, the sea-ice had always melted in the summer, but normal people didn’t know this. (I myself didn’t know this, back when I was normal.)

In fact, the sun never sets for six months, at the Pole. There is no “cool of the evening” because there is no evening. The sun just rides around the horizon, around and around, higher and higher, so of course temperatures rise. Temperatures commonly rise above freezing in May and then, on average, remain above freezing day after day, week after week, all the way to August. So is it any wonder the sea-ice melts?

This has nothing to do with Global Warming. It has been happening for millennium. But the cameras allowed us to see what only a few hundred arctic explorers had ever seen before. It was wonderful! It was beautiful! But I’m afraid it failed to be alarming enough.

Not that they didn’t try. The cameras showed the melt-water pools that form on the sea-ice during the summer, and sensationalist headlines made it sound like such pools were a new thing. But then a cantankerous old coot like myself would point out such pools were described by arctic explorers clear back to Henry Hudson in the 1600’s, and also that, when a crack formed in the ice, the water typically drained down and the pool vanished. This could result in embarrassment for Alarmists. For example, in 2013 they dubbed one such pool “Lake North Pole”, claiming it signified the beginning of The End, but no sooner had they drawn everyone’s attention to that camera’s view, when the pool drained and vanished, and instead the camera showed a view of a midsummer snow on polished sea-ice.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/lake-north-pole-vanishes/

The fact the cameras at times embarrassed Alarmists, showing freezing where Satellites indicated thaw, or snowfalls at the peak of the melt-season, or waters clotted with sea-ice in a location other “official” maps showed open water, made them seem unhelpful, to those most interested in the “narrative”. The cameras, initially supportive to the “narrative”, had become a liability. As a cynical old coot, I feel it is no great wonder that the funding dried up.

Nor is it a great wonder to me that richer Alarmists no longer invested in other arctic endeavors. We used to be able to get pictures from all sorts of crazy dudes who planned to prove how bad Global Warming was by being the first to row to the Pole in a bathtub. Or, well, maybe not a bathtub, but in other inadequate craft.

What amazed me most about such young adventurers was: They always got funded. The money was flowing like rivers, but now it has dried up. I think they tended to show too much sea-ice and not enough melting, and failed to support the “narrative.”

I was sad to see that, for the first time in years, there was no “Barneo” base at the Pole this April. Many tourists were willing to fork out $20,000 to ski at the Pole, but there was apparently not enough extra “science money” to make the truly marvelous event, (which even included a yearly marathon), worth the organizers getting over various political differences.

Officially the 2019 Barneo base didn’t happen because of bickering between Russia and Ukraine, but in the past such bickering was lubricated out of existence by a surging inflow of money. Now the money has dried up. Forgive me if I sound overly suspicious, but I think Barneo was also unhelpful to the “narrative”. There was something about the sight of jets landing on the ice (to unload wealthy tourists) that failed to support the idea the Pole would soon be an open ocean.

To me this seems to demonstrate how, as soon as you agree you must “erase” some element of Truth to promote your “narrative”, you have become compromised. Some idealism has egged-you-on into a predicament where you will wind up with egg-on-your-face.

This is not to say that the people who promoted the “narrative” didn’t mean well. They deemed their lies “white lies”. However when they had money and power they could seduce all sorts of people to do what they wanted, and to be at their beck and call. Sad to say, but many scientists, faced with a choice between working in the field they went to college to study, or flipping burgers in a fast-food joint, will chose to work in the field of science, even if it requires some compromise. Some “white lies.”

Nearly every job I’ve ever worked has involved putting up with stuff I’d rather not put-up-with. Compromise is part of life. But it should not involve too great a disregard of Truth.

I’ve worked for employers who demanded discipline. For example, I worked for a place where you could be fired if you “punched in” one second late. This seemed ridiculous to me, because some people tended to sit around the time-clock shooting the bull and drinking coffee for a half hour after they punched-in, while other got right to work. The Truth was that the time-stamp on the time-clock’s punch-card didn’t indicate how hard a man worked. But the boss didn’t want to hear my debate, so I compromised, for a while, and made sure to never be one second late. Eventually I would refuse to obey such discipline, and got fired, but I knew I deserved it. However I knew I could just go get another job. If I left a job in a factory I could go work in a cannery.

I think it isn’t so easy for scientists. It is harder for them to just go get another job. Albert Einstein did need to flee fascism and Germany, but if he had been driven to get a job running a fork lift, I shudder to think of the complete disaster which might have ensued. (To be honest, I didn’t always do so hot myself, as a poet operating a forklift.) (Cue sound-effect of much breaking glass.)

It seems a bit sad to me that funding is no longer flowing like wine, to study melting-at-the-Pole, because I know there are certain scientists who were hired, and asked to compromise a great deal, to make that subject their specialty. Employers shouldn’t just cut the funding for such faithful slaves. Sadly, whoever is funding the Global Warming idea is now treating some scientists like industrialists once treated coal miners, once the miners got old and were no longer useful. This is unwise. Kipling stated there is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned, but I think the fury of an abandoned slave may be as bad. When you deny a man all income, honor, and dignity, despite loyal service, a mere mouse may become a cornered rat.

Fortunately I don’t need to worry about losing income, honor and dignity, concerning sea-ice, because such study is only my hobby. True, due to some stuff I don’t understand concerning “search-engines”, my old posts about sea-ice used to get me over 700 views, and this post will likely get only 40, but this will not effect my income. Or my honor and dignity. After all, sea-ice is just my frickin’ hobby, and I’ll do it even if nobody “views.” The best things in life are free, but sometimes you are the only viewer. For example: That sunrise you saw, a while back. You might have wished there was someone you could share it with, but there wasn’t, yet it was majestic all the same. It was a joy just for you, and all your own (nor were you truly alone, in a spiritual sense).

Some Alarmists lack such joy, and sadly are lodged in unhappiness. They are unhappy because the sea-ice refuses to obey them. Here is the latest evidence:

The sea-ice “extent” graph seems to show a “recovery”. Rather than the “accelerating decline” predicted by “Death Spiral” theory, we are above the depths reached during the low-ice years in 2007 and 2012. The recent “maximum” was higher than last year’s, and, despite great excitement by Alarmists about a recent dip in “extent”, we are not in any way, shape or form headed towards an ice-free summer, this year.

As I look at the above graph, it with an awareness Alarmists seem to lack, concerning the past. I can only suppose it is because, where they must “erase” for the sake of a “narrative”, I simply accept history as it is.

And even most-recent history shows April cannot predict September’s minimum. In 2006 the extent in April was one of the lowest, in recent history, but by September the 2006 minimum was one of the highest, yet this highness, while making 2007 far higher than 2006 the next April, didn’t keep 2007 from having a September minimum which was the second lowest, in recent memory. Obviously the situation in April means little. If it meant much, 2006’s minimum would be lower than 2007’s, in September. In actual fact 2006 is one of the highest recent September extents, as 2007 is one of the lowest. April’s extent, in and of itself, is a lousy predictor.

Because I know recent history, I had a hard time getting all bent out of shape by a recent dip in the above “extent graph”, which some Alarmists claimed was proof all Capitalists should become Communists. Yes, you heard me right. They did claim such a preposterous thing. Look at the small downward blip in the graph, and imagine the leap of faith required to conclude it had such a huge political significance.

Forgive me,  but I didn’t even want to join the discussion.

Such discussion has always repelled me. This is a bit of a side track, but I think my dislike was formed by a mildly traumatic event at the end of my boyhood. Back when I was a grubby little boy some elders felt I might be improved by cleaning up what I wore, or having my hair cut more often, but I always found such fussing annoying. I had better things to do, and preferred hiking and fishing to being neat and tidy.

My slovenliness reached a peak around 1965, when, as youngest in my class, I was the last to show any sign of growing pubic hair, in the showers after gym class. I was the last true boy, and got in trouble with authorities by being grubby and careless, and wearing jeans to school ( illegal, back then) and having hair over the tops of my ears (also illegal) or wearing tattered sneakers, (you were suppose to wear shoes). I didn’t mean to rebel; I simply was neglectful. Meanwhile my pals were hit by hormones and abruptly became insanely interested in fashion and females.  They got in different trouble by daring to wear fashionable clothing, which broke certain school dress-codes. Their jet-black pants were too tight and too short; so tight about their ankles they could barely get them over their feet when they put them on, and they wore expensive footwear called “Beatle Boots” which the grown-ups banned because they were boots and not shoes. None of this made a lick of sense to me, for, after all, I was still a boy. What made sense was hiking and fishing.

I think the experience shaped me. Because I was youngest I saw, like the child seeing the Emperor had no clothes, that what was politically correct in 1965 was silly. My mind was impressed, and my thought was shaped in a way which saw the “fashion” others desired was actually repellent.

Therefore, when hormones hit me only a year later, I had no desire the wear pants tight around the ankle and Beatle-boots, because that seemed silly. Rather I would do what was not silly.  Quite accidentally I was seeking an “alternative lifestyle”. And what was the alternative? At that time it was to remain a child, a Huckleberry Finn, and to continue hiking and fishing, but to do so with the fever of an adolescent rather than the quietude of a boy. I learned to have a (nearly) complete disregard for fashion and political correctness. I had no idea this made me more adult than many adults. I was merely “thinking for myself”.

I think by 1967 the fashions of the politically correct became so shameful that many men have zealously burned all evidence, and developed amnesia. It was a fashion called “mod”. Men wore polka dots. I remember it quite clearly: Absurd, brightly colored polka dots. Not just ties, but sport coats. But nearly all evidence has been erased, like the Medieval Warm Period. What man would confess to being such a fool of fashion?

There was no way you were going to get me to dress in polka dots. Sorry, but even the slight chance, (very slight), that I could seduce a babe couldn’t trick me into wearing such peacock buffoonery. I stuck with my dirty jeans, and stuck with neglecting to get my hair cut until my shaggy locks got me rebuked by the school principle, and I stuck with hiking and fishing.

Then, in 1969, to my complete astonishment, dirty jeans and shaggy locks became fashionable and politically correct. As the youngest senior in my class I was abruptly the guy who was ahead of the curve, the guy who saw what was hip before all others, the guru of fashion.

I won’t pretend the flattery didn’t sway me. Every dog has his day. But, as fashion moved on to “disco”, I was like a guru wistfully watching all his disciples rush off to John Travolta.

Forgive me if I am belaboring my point, but it has been the experience of my life that a large part of “political correctness” is superficiality. It has next to nothing to do with the underlying Truth. At best “political correctness” is a dirty reflection through a warped mirror of what is actually occurring in the honest foundations of society, and at worst it is a complete misrepresentation.

There is much in my life I am not proud about, but one thing that makes me smile is that I still walk about in dirty jeans. I am what I am. I have been spared a great deal of bother and nuisance, by skipping fashion (most of the time) and instead focusing on work, and skipping political correctness, and instead focusing on Truth.

The Truth is that we are not threatened by the melting of arctic ice. The Truth also is we would be better off if the sea-ice totally melted. If it melted, we might return to climatic periods described as “Optimums”. If the sea-ice utterly melted northern climates under “arctic regimes” might instead experience “maritime regimes”.

In terms of Greenland, replacing the current “arctic regime” with a “maritime regime” would have a huge benefit. Permafrost would fade away, so you could dig a grave, as the Vikings once did. You could raise fodder, and deliver midwinter water, to 100,000 sheep and goats and 2000 cattle, as the Vikings once did. On good summers you could grow barley for beer, as the Vikings once did.

But some assume such evidence must be erased, along with other proof the Medieval Warm Period was warmer. What perverse ideology can be so stupid? Why erase what actually happened? Why erase actual experience which provides science with data, and which then corrects our past mistakes and furthers our future’s thought?

Who would do this? It is at this point my sense of humor kicks in, and I remember the persons who felt it was so dreadfully important to dress in “mod” fashions in 1967.  I always wondered how the minds of such people work. What are you telling yourself when you don a ridiculous polka-dot outfit? For that matter, what was Abraham Lincoln telling himself when he donned his stove-pipe hat? (I like to believe he was muttering curses under his breath, the way I did when my mother made me dress in a suit and go to dancing school, when I’d rather be fishing.)

And why did George Washington wear that silly wig? Oh…wait…..he didn’t wear a wig. That was his natural hair, (though he may have powdered it.) Wigs were for people who went prematurely bald, especially when they went bald as teenagers.

Why should you go bald at such an early age? It was a side-effect of a revenge Native Americans had upon Europeans. (No, not the addiction to tobacco.) The revenge was a sexually transmitted disease which Columbus (or his crew) brought back to Spain, and which swept through Europe as the worst epidemic since the Black Plague. To abruptly go bald (often in a patchy manner) as a teenager became a sign you had not been chaste, and to hide from the shame (made so blatant by the abrupt, patchy baldness), people wore wigs, if they could afford them. (Even a cheap wig cost a week’s wages), (but a side-effect was that wigs helped people avoid the annoyance of lice. They shaved what hair they had left, and if lice got in their wig they could just boil the wig. Problem solved). But, as wigs were expensive, they became status symbols, and the rich bought and wore amazingly tall and curly and flowing wigs, whereupon they were called “bigwigs”.

The irony is, of course, that wearing such a wig would not fool the wise, who would know you wore wear the hairpiece because you had been immoral and contracted a SID which might (before antibiotics) eventually rot your brain and cause tragic insanity.

But, to the simple, a bigwig is impressive. The wigs in the above painting may have costed more than a layman could make in half a year. (Isn’t it odd how people can turn hiding shame into a status symbol)?

In my humble opinion “Global Warming” is a sort of polka-dotted “bigwig” that silly people use to impress other silly people with. Alarmist dogma has little to do with virtue, just as contracting syphilis has little to do with virtue, but the dogma becomes a sort of “bigwig” that intellectually bald people use to hide their intellectual shame. In actual fact they may be as weakened and clipped as Samson was after Delilah was done with him, but, (by virtue signaling), the politically-correct state, “Look at me! I have more hair than Samson had, at his most mighty!”

I wonder if they think they are fooling themselves. After all, at some point men took off their “mod” suits, and they did not put those absurd outfits in the closet, and wait for such bizarre garb to come back into fashion. They threw the polka-dot suits into the rubbish, (or perhaps burned them), to destroy all evidence they had ever been so ridiculous.

In like manner Alarmists are backpedaling from their fashionable statements, regarding the Arctic being in a “Death-Spiral”.

One last-ditch effort to prove there was less ice, even when the “extent” increased, involved stating that, while the “extent” might have increased, the expanding ice was thinner and had become something they dubbed “rotten ice.” What mattered was suddenly not “extent”, but “volume”.

Of course measuring the “volume” was very difficult, and involved variables and margins-of-error much greater than measuring “extent”, (and indeed the best-science involving volume-measurement may be worse than the best-science is regarding what the weather will be ten days from now), but, for what it was worth, the “volume” graph was going down, even as the “extent” went flat and even rose slightly. “Volume” became the new talking-point, and the new proof the “Death-spiral” was ongoing.

But drat! Wouldn’t you just know it? Just as “Lake North Pole” vanished as soon as they got people looking at it, as soon as they got people looking at the “Volume” graph, it shot upwards last winter. Don’t you just hate it, when that happens?

I myself figured the sea-ice volume grew because last year a sort of “Wrong-way-flow” prevented sea-ice from being flushed south through Fram Strait in the more usual manner. At times these wrong-way winds even pushed the ordinarily-piled-up sea-ice away from Greenland’s north coast. ( Sensationalist Headline: “Open Water North Of Greenland Proves Sea-ice Is About To Vanish. Polar Bears Will Drown”).  This year has seen the wrong-way winds quit, and lots of sea-ice has been flushed south through Fram Strait to cool the Atlantic. As such sea-ice melts its “volume” drops to zero, and is subtracted from the total, so I expected the “Volume” graph to fall. Surprisingly, it hasn’t (so far):

If you are actually interested in arctic sea-ice, the refusal of “volume” to diminish is a fascinating development. But if you are interested in promoting a “narrative” it is incredibly annoying. This is one heck of a way to run a “Death Spiral”.

In fact, where we formally saw an attempt to “erase the Medieval War Period”, we may now be seeing an attempt to “erase the Death Spiral”.

I can’t say I blame whosoever may be involved. It is darned embarrassing to be predicting a sort of end-to-the-World, (though I reiterate that I think an ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a good thing), but then to, year after year, have your prediction be proven wrong. It seems quite normal and natural to change the subject. In a way it seems like burning an old, “mod” suit with blaring polka dots. Some things are best forgotten.

The problem is, we are not talking about mere silly outfits people chose to wear. We are talking about trillions of tax-dollars, the sweat of hard-working taxpayers, and how such dollars are spent. Are they spent wisely, or are they wasted on polka-dots?

With funding for cameras, and crazy adventurers, and the Barneo blue-ice jetport, all mysteriously vanished, just about the only pictures of sea-ice I can observe come from postings on the small-town websites of little communities in Alaska and Canada, who sit by the sea and have to deal with sea-ice, as it clogs their harbors every winter.  Often the ice can keep boats from bringing fresh groceries, and the local people must either hunker down and subsist on stored-up blubber and canned goods, or rely on icebreakers and airlifted goods.

On Labrador Island they rely on icebreakers and ferries with strengthened bows, but there were shortages last winter. There is always a struggle to get supplies across the Strait Of Belle Isle, due to sea-ice.

(First, I should note that, if the “Death Spiral” is real, that ice shouldn’t even be there. Last winter it was described as “the worst in thirty years”. But never mind that.)

Second, with all the advancements in technology, surely last winter should have seen more fresh vegetables than ever, out on the island.

The lady in the picture has been running her market forty years, and she stated last winter was the worst, in terms of getting fresh vegetables.

How is it possible that 40 years ago, way back in 1978, the Canadians who lived back then could do a better job delivering groceries than the modern generation of politically-correct idealists can do?

Attempting to poke into the details, I had to descend into the bizarre world of Canadian politics, which currently involves lots of polka-dots, and not much sanity. Apparently they replaced an old, tired, but adequate ferry called the “Apollo” with a ferry that butchers the English language with the ungrammatical name, “Qajaq”.

As a boy I learned it was very bad luck to ever use the letter “Q” without the letter “U” after it. (After all, look what happened to Iraq).  (Also, if I wrote “Q” without “U”, I might be kept after school, which was very bad luck). No good could possibly come of naming a ship “Qajaq”, but for Canadians it has become very stylish to write “Q” without a “U”,  as doing so is apparently a sort of virtue-signaling, indicative of “sensitivity” towards “indigenous peoples.”  (I’m not sure how sensitive naming a ferry “Qajaq” actually is, for I think in Inuit “qajaq” is the plural of “qyaq”, which is a skinny little kayak; in any case, an odd name for a  car-carrying ferry.)

Qajaq lived up to my superstitions. Even with the help of ice-breakers, it could not deliver the groceries, and for weeks couldn’t even leave port. The people who live out on the island, and the truck-drivers dependent on the ferry to earn their living, grew scornful of the politicians who had mismanaged. After around a month the coast guard used ice-breakers to barge a minimum of groceries out to Labrador Island, but the ships were not designed for cargo and many groceries froze solid and had to be returned.

I learned all sorts of bits about the Canadian government, eavesdropping in small town chat-rooms. Apparently a large amount of money was squandered on “cronies” who built a road to the ferry terminal, but not enough money was spent on the ferry itself. Also, although the politicians were very proud of the Qajaq, because it had only half the “carbon footprint” of the Apollo, the local people scornfully stated this goal was achieved only by having a puny engine, merely half as strong as Apollo’s, which meant that, even with a reinforced bow, that the Qajaq couldn’t push through sea-ice the Apollo had once shouldered through.

I bit my tongue, for it is not my place to butt into a neighbor’s business, but I did want to mention that their politicians seemed to spend far too much time being “sensitive” about naming their ships, and far too little time being “sensible” about shipping.

The way to avoid mismanagement is to hire sensible managers, and the way to be sensible is to take a hard look at facts. It is distinctly unhelpful to “erase” the facts,  yet much political-correctness seems aimed at not-allowing certain facts to be faced.  Certain subjects must not be broached, certain realities must be avoided, certain sleeping-dogs must not be disturbed even with a ten-foot-pole, until one is reduced to mincing about on eggs, more focused on polka-dots and big-wigs than what really matters. It is only then that politicians cease being helpful and begin to be hazards, more concerned with genuflecting than with making sure groceries are delivered. Even the most garrulous old store-owner knows there comes a time to “stop talking and to start stocking” (the shelves). When a politician can’t see this, and becomes more busy erasing things such as the Medieval Warm Period than with delivering the goods, then troubles arise. It is when shelves are empty that people tend to dust off an old Winston Churchill quote:

“The loyalties which center upon (the leader) are enormous. If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed…”

This was what got Donald Trump elected. People were sick of mismanagement. The politically-correct were horrified, and attempted to pole-ax Trump even before he took office, which demonstrates they did not read the rest of the Churchill quote:

“…But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day; and certainly not in the days after (the leader) has been chosen.”

The simple fact of the matter is that what matters is not polka-dots, nor how big your wig is, but how you manage the cards dealt out to you. There are people dealt nothing but deuces who amaze all with their success, and there are those who are dealt aces who fall flat on their faces. (Hmm. Might be a poem in that.)

Some people, though seemingly dealt only deuces,
Become locomotives and never cabooses.
Other elite ones are dealt only aces
Yet traipse into trouble and fall on their faces.

It is true that a lot depends on your teammates; a fantastic soccer player will never be a winner if his goal-tender takes his eye off the ball to admire a blond babe in the stands; a great quarterback will have trouble completing a pass if his blockers are spineless and his coach is the moronic relative of a moronic owner. However some, even when dealt the worst hands, still manage to manage. There are ordinary people you meet every day who only manage to be ordinary by defying incredible odds. Conversely, there are pompous bigwigs who think their feces smell better than everyone else’s, utterly oblivious to an impending pole-ax.

The nice thing about a two-party system is that no actual pole-ax is involved. No guillotine is rolled out to chop off your head. There is no “Terror”, no Stalinist purges, no horrible Maoist “Cultural Revolution”, no “Night Of The Long Knives” where Hitler assassinated his best-friend Brown-Shirts although they had lifted him to power. Instead, in a two-party system, you are subjected to what the sports-world calls “being benched.” You are not kicked off the team, but you are told to go sit down and think about how you contributed to the fact the team lost the last game.

A problem arises when one wants so badly to have star-status they cannot abide even the thought of any sort of demotion. Their mother told them they were wonderful, and it hurts them tremendously when they find out they are merely ordinary. They received a trophy in school, (sometimes a “participation trophy” for doing nothing beyond showing up), and they expect life to give them another. They feel “entitled”, and feel they should be quarterback even if not gifted in that regard. Even if they are five-foot-two and can’t throw, they feel some “injustice” is involved if the best way they can help the team is to sell hot-dogs in the stands.  They have lost the ability to see the facts a good manager sees, preferring to “erase” certain aspects of Truth, and to live in a rosy dream-world that can only remain rosy if reality doesn’t rear its head with ugly repercussions.

If one erases things such as the “Medieval Warm Period”, one eventually winds up with a so-called “false narrative” one is dependent upon, and then one becomes overly focused on things such as naming a boat, or “carbon emissions”, and the repercussions are empty shelves. Karma then tends to be ruthless. What goes around comes around.

In a way it is amusing, for often a reason some get sidetracked is because they feel “life isn’t fair”, and then, after their sidetrack leads them deep into a forest of buffoonery involving polka-dots and big-wigs and other forms of virtue-signaling political-correctness, they become extremely indignant when it turns out life is fair, after all.

It is difficult to explain the unfairness of life, for God’s Creation involves a vast, intricate complexity beyond the capacity of the human psyche to completely comprehend. Why are some born rich and some born poor, some born beautiful and some born ugly, some born sharp and some born dull? Is it due to the Karma of past lives? Is it due to evil White Men exploiting? Is it due to carbon emissions? Is it due to eating too much beef and not enough kale? Or is it merely a given in life, called “troubles?”

Having spent most of my life attempting to avoid trouble but getting into plenty, I tend to feel troubles are part of life, (and that, in fact, life would be boring without them).

If anyone was going to successfully avoid trouble, I would think it would be a man with super-powers, who could walk on water, and raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, such as Jesus is believed by some to have been. But even Jesus didn’t seem to avoid trouble, nor promise his followers an easy road:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This is not to say that some elements of truthfully facing-trouble don’t defy basic mathematics:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.”

To people only focused on the mathematics of money, and not the entirety of Truth, this statement made by Jesus is illogical. Their minds, in over-focusing on money, have “erased” other things that matter.

I seem to see, in history, a rising and falling of people nearly as predictable as the rising and falling of tides. Initially people focus on Truth in its vast and incomprehensible entirety,  and are made swiftly aware of their inabilities and mistakes, but are equally swift to respond to Truth’s corrections. People call Truth inanimate, but Truth does give people a swift boot in the posterior if they neglect to factor-in certain elements. Call it “Divine Intervention” or call it “Murphy’s Law”, Truth is swift to correct and discipline those people humble enough to admit their mistakes, and who eagerly learn from them. Because they are swift to learn they rise on a tide of Truth, and often gain prosperity, popularity, and power.

But then the rot sets in. People enjoy prosperity, popularity and power, and these three things are seen as being worthwhile in and of themselves, even to the point where Truth slips from the center of people’s attention. The “erasure” is slight at first, but the addiction is insidious, and slowly makes inroads upon the initial, steadfast focus on Truth. The tide is falling, though the people heading down often think they are richer, more famous, and more powerful than ever. Towards the end they become the butts of jokes, utterly focused on polka-dots and big-wigs, and amazingly blind to the Truth that brought about prosperity, popularity and power in the first place. This downfall is described by some as “being given to sin.”

This realization has been an unexpected side-effect of studying sea-ice. It has occurred because one cannot talk about what the sea-ice is actually doing, in actual terms, without at some point treading upon the vast and duck-like flat-feet of Alarmists, and being exposed to the sputtering bombast of their wrath.

(Pause, if you will, and reflect back upon the painting of the pompous “bigwigs” I portrayed earlier in this post. Better yet, go back and look at the picture, and imagine telling those gentlemen about the real reason they wore their wigs. Do you think they’d be nice, hearing your words?)

In other words, even if you want to talk about sea-ice and sea-ice alone, there are individuals who change the subject. They seem to prefer to distract one’s focus away from the Truth about sea-ice, and instead towards their personal ire. Their logic smells of red herrings. They don’t want Truth to be the center of attention, preferring that they themselves be the center. Have pity on them. They are very needy fellows, because they need help.

As interested as I am in sea-ice, I feel Alarmist’s cries for help must be respected. That is why I go on such long side-tracks, attempting to explain the antics of my fellow man, when sea-ice is often more interesting. To walk heedlessly past a person dressed in polka-dots and big-wigs, when they are crying out for help, is in some ways like walking past a person sinking in quicksand.

Of course, they are unaware they are crying out for help. Part of their derangement is that they think I am treading on their vast toes. Which is why solving their silly problem is taking so much longer than it should.

It is a pity Alarmists are so needy and require so much pampering, because there is actually some interesting stuff going on at the Pole. With the “Death Spiral” now a dogma undergoing what seems to require an erasure much like the “Medieval Warm Period’s”, there are far fewer pictures to look at, so we aren’t able to closely examine the changes we dimly see in other data.

What are the changes?

There was a shift in weather patterns that led to fewer charges of Atlantic air north over the Pole, especially in Fram Strait. But on the Pacific side there was a push of sea-ice north through Being Strait. If I had time I’d love to study this shifting pattern in greater detail, (rather than deal with the denials of those who, for over a decade, have called me “a denier. “)

The air was a little milder than normal over the Pole, when compared against thirty-year-norms, last winter, yet it was far colder than most recent winters.

Notice how the red line actually dipped below the green line twice during the depth of winter,  which hasn’t happened since 2015.  Also the “peaks” above normal were far more modest. Compare the warm surges last winter (above) with the warm surges the prior winter (below).

If you add up the area of the space between the red lines and green lines you get a rough estimate of the amount of chill the sea-ice was exposed to, which can allow you to make a guess at how much thicker the ice got. However the milder air also tends to lead to more snow, which further insulates the ice from chill, and may further decrease the thickness of the ice. Therefore, because last winter had colder temperatures, and likely less snow, the ice may have thickened more, which may partially explain the failure of volume to decrease, despite more sea-ice being exported south through Fram Strait.

However less snow may have a contrary effect, now that the sun has risen north of the Arctic Circle. The snow has the ability, due to its high albedo, to delay the melting. Less-deep snow may mean an earlier start to the formation of melt-water pools. (And here is where cameras would be such a help.)

Despite the fact temperatures (and likely humidity) have been above normal during recent winters, this has changed, year after year, during the month of May. Often May has seen the first below-normal temperatures in many months, and quite often temperatures have remained more often below-normal than above-normal through much of the following summer. I’ll be interested to see if it happens again this year.

The fact summer temperatures are below-normal tends to suggest the sunshine is weaker. The so-called “Quiet Sun” may be showing its effect. Oddly, the “Quiet Sun” may also be showing its effect even when it doesn’t shine at the Pole, during the winter, and may be causing the warmer winters at the Pole.

This is utterly contrary to ordinary thought. How could a weaker sun make it warmer?

Warming might happen because the sun’s energy does not merely manifest in a way measured by thermometers, but also as energy measured by anemometers. A weaker sun might lead to weaker winds. If those weaker winds happened to be Trade Winds, the result would be less up-welling of cold waters to the west of continents down towards the equator. Less cold water at the equator would allow there to be more warm water (an El Nino rather than a La Nina), and this leads to warmer and more-moist air heading north to the Pole.

The arctic is in many respects a desert, with air that is very cold and very dry. The introduction of even a slight amount of moisture can have a huge effect in terms of temperature. The same amount of evaporated moisture which would result in a very small temperature rise at the equator, (and might even lower temperatures if a  thunderstorm resulted), can result in a spike of winter temperatures at the Pole of over twenty degrees, (still below freezing). It is therefore wrong to give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures.

In fact, if you give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures, and created an “average” between the two, you might even create a statistical error, wherein the increase at the Pole would have the effect of “masking” a growing decrease elsewhere. A slight amount of mere moisture, at the Pole, could consequently corrupt the “Global Average Temperature”, which some politicians place so much importance upon.

I wish I had time to continue. I have only brought up two lovely variables which thermometers don’t measure, namely Trade Winds and humidity at the Pole. Truth is far more complex and beautiful, and includes far more subtlety than temperature, humidity and wind-speed. It is for the best, if we wish to be good stewards of the gift we call “our planet”, to remain humble, concerning our relationship with Truth. We must be constantly ready to be corrected.

The alternative seems to me to be an arrogant refusal to accept correction, and a behavior which seems basically adolescent. It seems but an immature, audacious certainty that “the science is settled”, and that Truth has nothing more it can teach us. It is the ossified enunciation of paralyzed thinking, addicted to polka-dots and enamored of big-wigs, and the great irony is that, in seeking to avoid correction, it invites more and greater corrections. In the end such Alarmism is simply a way of cruising for a bruising.