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.

Advertisements

LOCAL VIEW –Window to the Wet–

The beat and drench of the cold April wet
Strands me by my window, frowning distaste.
When young I’d push myself out and forget
All comfort, not for “fears-must-be-faced”,
But with my eyes filled by mad ambition.

With handsaw and hammer and reused, rusty nails
I would change the world, and no lack of sun
Or cold rain could stop me, but bluster quails
After fifty years of seeing I don’t
Change the world, but the world changes me.

The mud remains as muddy; mankind won’t
Change the climate; through my window I see
The same wet twigs holding crystal-ball drops.
The change is the same and the change never stops.

LOCAL VIEW –Chickweed–

It may seem a bit cynical to say so, but sometimes I feel people need a bit of hell to appreciate heaven. One never appreciates sleeping past dawn as much as they do the first day boot camp is done. For this reason God may appear as cruel as a drill sergeant, or as callous as a surgeon who cuts to heal, until the moment one experiences being healed.

Spring is like a vast healing overtaking the entire earth, and defying the ordinary state of affairs where we see things get worn out. Ordinarily we expect stuff to get old and become obsolete and broken. Spring holds the bliss of a contrary way. I think that, in northern lands, people would become completely intoxicated and become quite useless and be unable to plant crops, and therefore God created biting black flies, to remind us we are not in heaven yet.

This spring seems especially beautiful because it took so long to get started. The daffodils seem especially perfect, because they had to wait so long to bloom they are not bitten by late frosts.

Chickweed 1 IMG_6746

It has happened with stunning speed. One day I was spreading salt on the snowy walk and the next I am mowing grass. The road crews have flipped from plowing to putting up the Memorial Day flags.

Chickweed 5 FullSizeRender

The stark landscape is gentled too swiftly for the mind to capture or fully grasp.

Wherever you turn there are beautiful views, until I had trouble arriving on time because I had to stop so often to snap pictures of places I usually drove by without noticing.

Chickweed 3 IMG_6750

And sometimes I feel I took a wrong turn and entered a new world. (Or perhaps a right turn.)

Chickweed 4 FullSizeRender

I’m two weeks late planting peas and potatoes and onions, but even in the garden I get reminders of healing. Among last year’s dead corn grows a mat of chickweed.

Chickweed 6 IMG_6755

I did not labor to plant this crop, with its tiny blooms.

Chickweed 7 FullSizeRender

The old-timers said it was a cure for winter-dried skin and winter-clogged lungs. I gathered a gallon for dinner, (it shrinks a lot when boiled), musing to myself about how spring heals.

The more you draw, the farther the arrow flies,
And the more spring is delayed, the bluer
Are its skies, the greater your surprise,
As if you were a man who stepped from sewer
To paradise, or a damsel seeing a hero
Step from a gorilla disguise. Not all shock
Is trauma. Leaping to jackpot from zero
May drop gamblers, but winter’s thorny stalk
produced a rose of such sweet aroma
That scent became solid, a strange staircase
Climbing from garden through clouds, and such awe
Overwhelmed that no words can describe the place
Where ones mood climbed, except the poor word “bliss”.
Where one once was a worm: Metamorphosis.

LOCAL VIEW –Final April Foolishness–

April's Fool 1 FullSizeRender

I suppose there was no reason April shouldn’t end as it began, with slush mixed in with the raindrops hitting the windshield between swiping wipers. May will be different. Temperatures are suppose to rise from 37°F (3°C) this morning to 81°F (27°C) Wednesday afternoon. We’ll whiplash from winter to summer with no spring.

No, that is an exaggeration. Hiking with the children at the Childcare there were signs of spring, though they were signs I associate more with the final days of March than with the final day of April. The moss was greening on the boulders by a brook in the woods.

April's Fool 2 IMG_6736

And a raspberry mist rode the gray twigs of the swamp maples. When you draw close you see it is minute flowers.

April's Fool 2 FullSizeRender

I like to point out such details to the children. Often they are oblivious, and walk on absorbed with whatever fantasy they currently are engrossed by, but once in a while I’ll see a child screech to a halt, set back on their heels by the beauty they’re midst.

Beyond doubt this has been the coldest April I’ve seen in many a year, and there is a sort of egotism that wants to use words like “worst” and “unprecedented”. Sadly I cannot glorify in such vanity, for people such as Joe Bastardi (on his blog at the Weatherbell site), have the time to dig deeply, and inform me we are only in third place in the satellite era, for both 1983 and 1997 were colder. Nor can I use the chill to silence those doom-and-gloom Alarmists who constantly bleat about Global Warming, for despite the chill over North America the planet as a whole is slightly warmer than normal.

April's Fool 4 ncep_cfsr_t2m_anom(25)

Sometimes I just shed the tension that seems to walk hand in hand with sensationalism, wherein things must always be “best”, “worst” or “most” to deserve attention. Instead I drop the need to be champion. It feels comforting to just relax, and quietly say, “One more April is in the books.”

For in fact there is beauty to see in every April, whether they are hot or cool, and coolness has it’s good side. I can recall years when the heat had everything pass in a rush, with the daffodils blooming and withering almost before you could see they were there. And one of the saddest springs I remember saw all the trees in my boyhood neighborhood turned from reality to memory, because a heavy, wet snow fell after all the leaves were out, and entire trees were broken down. (May 9, 1977). It is not always good to have the leaves rush to unfurl.

*******

Another day is breaking.

Better to take the days as they come. A day can make a difference, for, though the temperature is again 37°F, today every bough is shining as a white sun crests the hills.

April's Fool 5 FullSizeRender

And the daffodils, neither burned by frost nor shriveled by heat, are as perfect as they’d be from a florist’s refrigerator.

April's Fool 6 IMG_6739

And the invasive lesser celandine unfurls a happy mat where I once had a lawn, petals opening even as I watch.

April's Fool 7 FullSizeRender

And even the unkempt grasses where I do have a lawn are shining.

April's Fool 8 FullSizeRender

I made it! Made it! I made it to May!
And all wintry thinking is fading!
All grayness and gloom is ebbing away
Though the leaves are too small to start shading.
The glades are so full of bright sunshine they smile
And the woods are warmhearted and golden.
I want to go walking for mile after mile
And hear how the bird-songs embolden
My lips to start whistling brand new songs
And my eyes to start dancing with clouds.
Begone all you woes! Begone all you wrongs!
Begone all you Gothic, funeral shrouds
For I’m off to the woods with nothing to say
But I made it! I made it! I made it to May!

LOCAL VIEW –Reluctant Rhapsody–

“This spring I will not write a rhapsody”
I observed, scuffing the street with old man
Feet, “For I’ve become like a dead tree
That has no sap. No green buds ever can
Gentle my claws.” I felt no great grief
Commenting, and bowed no sad violins
With self-pity. It seemed a fact and relief
That I was too old to add further sins
To my long list. The day had long passed
And I scuffed through dark fog with twilight gone
And then paused. All my dark thought was surpassed
By a sound like many lights long before dawn.
They punctured the calm my brain was self-willing.
In the swamp a thousand small frogs were all thrilling.

This is the most delayed spring I can ever remember. Usually the maples tantalize, for they start to bud out in late March, but are only flirting. Most years there is a long period where the forest is hazed by golden green and purple, and has lost the starkness of winter, as every twig is topped by a swelling bud, but the buds never bust out. A sort of prolonged reluctance becomes the mood, as the world awaits the true bursting out of May in all its glory. But this year the buds remained winter gray even in late April.

Slow spring 1 IMG_6690

Our first daffodil finally unwrapped its petals in slow motion on April 23.

Slow spring 2 FullSizeRender

The forecast is for temperatures to soar next week. Yesterday we had a hard time getting up to fifty (10°C) but next week we may touch eighty (27°C) . I fully expect to wind up dazed, as around five weeks of spring will be compressed into 120 hours.

One likes to linger over springtime, as one does a fine glass of wine, but this will be like chugging a whole bottle at once. Around here we’ll all be reeling.

 

LOCAL VIEW –Singing In The Snow–

Sometimes I want to shoot the messenger. Ordinarily I am full of praise for the Weatherbell site, but today Joseph D’Aleo had the nerve to mention, on his blog, “Although the sun is 24 degrees higher in the sky and days are up to 3 and a half hours longer than the nights around Christmas, snows can happen in April.

I don’t want to hear that.

Then he, and also Joe Bastardi, went on in great detail about how winter, in a final fit, could delay our spring.  They were being honest, but so was Jesus when he told the Pharisees that their ostentatious outfits made them look like fools. And we know how Jesus was rewarded for his honesty, this being Easter. And I am grumpy and feel in some ways like a Pharisee.

At the same time I am perhaps less inclined to shoot (or crucify) messengers for telling the Truth, because I’ve been lambasted myself, when I simply comment on what the facts show us, in terms of all the hoopla about Global Warming.

I’m all for any sort of warming. After all, we get tortured in New Hampshire by false promises of spring every year, but the trees never are fooled, and never truly bust out until the first of May. I should know this by now. After all, I experienced my first miserable New Hampshire spring in 1972, and have more recently lived here non-stop for thirty years. However a boyish part of my heart remembers boyhood Springs, down in the flatlands of Massachusetts. Though only fifty miles away, Spring comes two weeks earlier there. And two weeks can seem like an eternity.

Not that the sun being 24 degrees higher in the sky and days being 3 1/2 hours longer doesn’t have an effect. It makes things worse. For example, look at the way the sun melts the snow away in only two days. Start here:

Singing 3 IMG_6553

And move two days on to this:

Singing 4 IMG_6587

And you’ll notice not green grass, but mud. Locals call it “The Mud Season.” In terms of running a Childcare, it means that rather than wet snowsuits I can throw in the drier, we wind up with muddy snow-suits I get in trouble for throwing in the drier. Of course I’ll also get in trouble, with the kids, if their snowsuits aren’t dry. It’s a lose-lose situation. The sooner Mud Season is over the happier I’ll be, but further frosts and further snows, as suggested by the Weatherbell site, will only prolong my misery.

Worst is that all the snow melted away back in February, and we had a day with a temperature of 72°F (22°C), and the mire was drying. All the Global Warming Alarmists were clicking their heels and joyously saying that the end of life as we know it was nigh.  But I’m no fool. The only threat to life as we know it was that they were so blind to the facts. The east coast of the USA was one of the few areas in the northern hemisphere above normal.

Singing 1 NOAA-map-land-Temp-Feb-2018

I went on to audaciously suggest that all the gray land-areas and white sea-areas in the above map, when in-filled (“homogenized”) by NOAA, would lean to warmth and hide how cold it was. This proved I was a “Denier”, though I only stated the Truth. For example,  in the above raw-data map southern India and western Ethiopia were below normal, but in the “homoginized” map below the same areas are above normal.

Singing 5 NOAA-map-blended-Temp-Feb-2018-1

Why should I get in trouble for pointing out what I just pointed out? It is right there for anyone to see. But it seems some Alarmists don’t like looking. They have “eyes but cannot see”. They prefer to “look” like they are correct, and this makes them like Pharisee in ostentatious outfits, “looking” spiritual.

Don’t get me wrong. Compared to Jesus I’m a spineless coward, and flee from any threat of being crucified. But I find it dismaying that even a spineless coward like myself can catch grief, for pointing out what a child can see. What am I denying, and why am I called a “denier”, for pointing out what is so obvious?

And let me point something else out, which I’ll likely catch heck for.

Some say land temperatures don’t matter, because they are so quick to rise and fall, and we should instead look at the sea-surface temperatures. But they distress me because they fell the past two months.

Singing 2 global

To me this is distressing because most of the sea surface is in the southern hemisphere, and they have just experienced their summer. Is something besides CO2 having an effect, (such as a less intense and “quiet” sun?)

So, the northern hemisphere, which is mostly land, looks colder, and sea-surface temperatures, which are mostly in the southern hemisphere, also look colder, but we are to believe that, overall, the world is warming? I don’t think so. And the people who say the world is warming seem, to me, to be the true “deniers”.

I have nothing to gain from seeing a colder world. I long for warmth and for spring. I am not paid by “Big Oil” (or anyone else) for stating my views. I’m just saying the Truth as I see it. What is most chilling to me is not the delayed spring I face, but the retarded intelligence I face. I feel that, if a Renaissance is a societal springtime,  societal spring is delayed, or even reversed.

An April snow? It is but piffle
Compared to the world-wide winter we’ve seen
Summer after summer. Stench? One whiff will
Cause the straight-walker to wheel and careen
Like a drunkard. Don’t try to explain it
With your politics, pitting rich against poor
And poor against rich, nor to contain it
Like an escaped genie. You cannot slam the door
On such a winter. Pandora’s mistake
Cannot be re-boxed, nor is her hope much good,
For winter causes the good hearts to break
And saints feed lions. Bow heads, as you should,
And then resort to the Last Resort, to call Spring:
In the face of the blues, sing, man, sing!

It seems a strange response to me, but there is a power in singing when all gets dark. As I pondered about this I happened to venture my ideas with a group of friends at a Bible-study, and they swiftly responded with examples of illogical singing defeating insurmountable odds.

A.) Jehoshaphat marched out to meet three invading armies with his musicians at the head of his army, and the enemy was thrown into confusion and fought each other to death, and Jehoshaphat’s soldiers didn’t need to draw a sword.

B.) Paul and his companions were thrown in prison after being severely beaten, and rather than than collapsing into exhausted sleep, they prayed (which makes some sense) and sung hymns (which doesn’t.) There promptly was an earthquake and the prison doors sprang open (which makes some sense)  and their shackles sprang open as well (which doesn’t).

C.) In Psalm 69 King David, after listing reasons for woe and stating how his foes deserve punishment, states,

...But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
    may your salvation, God, protect me.

I will praise God’s name in song…

I am not as skilled as my friends are, when it comes to quoting scripture. Instead I could only resort to secular sources, and turn to the unrecognized great American poet, Dr. Seuss, and point out that when the Grinch tried to steal Christmas, the Who’s defeated him by singing.

In any case, after talking we sang, and I have to admit I felt much better.

Afterwards I went home and dug up an old song I wrote back in 1972, after a night when I screamed into my pillow.  I brushed it up a bit, and here is the 2018 version:

You are why the night wind’s hushing.
You are why the dawn is blushing.
You are why the birds start singing.
You are why the church bell’s ringing.

The night was long and cold.
I had no one to hold.
I felt so confused
And so abused
But I refused to think that You forgot me.

You are land lost sails discover.
You are why the ill recover.
You removed every splinter.
You can end every winter.

The song you teach at dawn
Goes on and on and on.
Dark and cold starlight
Fades from my sight
And I delight the Sun has not forgot me.

You are why the night wind’s hushing.
You are why the dawn is blushing.
You are why the birds start singing.
You are why the church bell’s ringing.

In conclusion, the springtime this poor planet really needs isn’t meteorological. It needs another Easter.

 

LOCAL VIEW –Perfected Creation–

I thought I’d include this poem to demonstrate how my mind wanders.

1.) A sea-ice post led to a discussion of drifting continents.

2.) God moving continents about is like a husband moving about the furniture.

3.) We, as the “bridesmaids” God created, likely nagged Him into doing it.

4.) Time for a poem.

For just a moment, every spring,
I see how perfect Eden must have been.
For just a dawn, before bugs come out to sting,
I glimpse how life will be, when freed of sin.
Spring’s an echo of God saying, “It is good.”

We should have accepted the compliment.
Instead it seems we told God that He should
Move the furniture, shift each continent,
End drought but end rain.

                                        What had God created?
A nagging wife? Did our Maker then groan
“This isn’t good!” No, for He clearly stated
The not-good he’d made was, “To be alone.”

The opposite of “alone” is “in love”
And, because God is love, isolation
Is the enemy. Creation dreams of
A great family’s celebration
And, though family may bicker and fight
And be His headache, we’re still His delight.

Rainbow Cloud FullSizeRender

 

(Photo Credit:  Marlowe Gautreau)