Some of the most constructive time I spend with small children at my Childcare is time that is not “organized”. It has no specific “curriculum” other than “hanging out”. Basically, the kids just tag along as I potter about doing chores in my usual disorganized manner. Sometimes they help me, but usually not.
I tend to be hit by a non-stop stream of questions, and sometimes I answer them seriously, and sometimes with an absurd answer, and sometimes with an answer that becomes so long and elaborate that the children start drifting away.
As I potter about I often stop to pull a few random weeds, and each time a child will ask “What are you doing?” After answering, “pulling a few random weeds” the first hundred times, during the early days of the Childcare over a decade ago, I got a bit fed up, and began answering in a spurious manner, just to entertain myself by watching how the children responded. For example, I might answer, “making a fudge cookie.” Some children would look at me with owlish innocence, while others would think a bit and then a slow smile would spread across their faces and they’d exclaim, “You’re fooling us!”
Rather than slowing the onslaught of dumb questions, giving facetious answers increased the questions, because the kids liked some of the absurd answers I’d come up with. And I confess I rather liked it myself. It could make dull weeding a time of jocular hilarity, if I stated that I pulled a certain weed because it had magic powers and could turn my dog into an elephant. Sometimes we’d even sidetrack over to the dog to see if the herb worked. When it didn’t, I’d scratch my head and say, “That’s odd. Elephants look just like dogs, today.”
Of course, I had to take care to judge the nature of the child. Some children were totally trusting, and I’d need to make sure they knew I was joking, or they’d be misinformed. One time I misinformed a gullible child without intending to, and he came in one morning and folded his arms and greeted me with the challenging statement, “My Dad says there’s no such thing as walking trees.” Other children were simply serious by nature and didn’t like jokes. However, I was usually surprised by the adroit ability children had (and have) to enter into nonsense. The world of make-believe is second nature for many children.
My wife didn’t always approve of my ability to get children “stirred up”, because she felt I was not so good at getting them to be serious again. I disagreed, but she said my way of getting things back under control involved too much growling.
Anyway, after more than a decade just hanging out with the kids, (and getting paid for it), I am very certain children absorb like sponges, when they hang out with pottering old men. They are not merely learning a slew of factoids but are learning social skills such as how to tell a joke, and how to challenge a person who may be pulling their leg. Maybe they learn how to spot a liar, which is unfortunately an important skill to have in this fallen, modern world. Perhaps most important of all, they, by being outside so much with a person who loves the outdoors, learn how complex and amazing nature is. The green things are more than “plants” and the wiggly things are more than “bugs.” “Plants” and “bugs” turn from two nouns to a hundred interacting species, and the kids get to increase their vocabulary by a hundred in a single summer.
Some might say all this could be done by watching videos indoors, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Also, there is no predicting how the children will react to the so-called curriculum of a setting, both individually and as a group. Two years ago, I could not keep the kids away from the garden’s patch of edible podded peas; this year the children were relatively indifferent, only occasionally munching a few. In like manner, most kids don’t mind watching me pick the potato bugs from the potatoes, but dislike actually touching the bugs, especially the slimy larvae, and they are in no hurry to help me. Yet there was one particular boy who just loved waging war on potato bugs. He would plead with me to be allowed to do the job. I’d set him to it, and he’d easily spend an happy hour in the sunshine, moving down the long row meticulously removing the bugs.
Some tasks, such as digging the potatoes, are always a hit, and I have to ration the plants to make sure everyone gets a turn experiencing the delight of digging up a treasure:
So, I suppose “digging potatoes” could count as an official “curriculum”, and as something you could put down on paper in the manner bureaucrats prefer, as a scheduled “activity” of the Childcare, but to me that seems more like an exception than a rule.
For example, in the process of seeing the noun “bird” divide into numerous species the kids tend to scrutinize various birds and see things that simply can’t be matched by videos. This is not to say that I might not turn to a YouTube video to let the kids hear a particular birdsong when that particular bird is refusing to sing, but there is nothing like the real thing.
The other day it was very hot and humid, and I sought out the deepest shade I could find with a cluster of grouchy small girls. I had only a short time before they could rush to the pool, and then their petulance would be cured, but sometimes twenty minutes can seem an eternity. It was while we were in the deep shade that I pointed out a catbird. Catbirds are very curious, investigative birds, and, though they always try to always keep a bough or cluster of leaves between you and them, they can come quite close as they investigate what we humans are up to. This bird came close enough to distract the girls from their crabbiness. They exclaimed it was “practically tame”, and then, because I said it was called a catbird because it had a squeaky, scratchy caw something like a cat’s meow, all the girls started meowing to the bird. I said, “Not like that; more like this,” and did my best rendition of a catbird’s meow. All the girls began copying me and then, with perfect timing, the catbird hopped onto a nearby twig and showed us how to meow properly. All the girls looked utterly amazed, looking at each other with eyes round as owls, and then burst into gleeful laughter.
That can’t be matched by a video, though I’ll try:
An even better example involved an eastern phoebe.
We have several families of phoebes nesting in outbuildings around the farm, and I likely have bored the older boys pointing them out as they hop about in my garden, praising phoebes for eating so many bugs. Phoebe have a very distinctive way of twitching their tails up and down as they sit on a fencepost, and also an interesting way of sometimes fluffing the feathers on top of their heads into a small crest, and I’ve likely bored the boys pointing that out as well.
I had a group of particularly jaded five-, six- and seven-year-old boys around me one hot morning last week. I wasn’t actually “on the schedule”, but I could see that they were giving a member of my staff trouble as she tried to organize the smaller children for a hike. All the children must be swabbed with repellant and sunscreen, and mischievous boys can complicate the process, so I asked them if they’d like to come in the garden and see the first ripe broccoli and cauliflower. They always seem eager to hang out with me (if not to help), so they came over, and a few accepted samples of broccoli, while some announced they hated broccoli. I rambled away in my gravelly voice, saying some people have tastebuds that that taste the bitterness in broccoli, while others don’t, and then telling the old joke about the difference between green broccoli and green boogers being that small children won’t eat broccoli, and then pointed out a phoebe hopping in the dirt down at the end of the row. I was moving on to saying broccoli was in the cabbage family, and I was likely boring the boys by pointing how the nearby cabbage and cauliflower and Brussel sprouts all looked the same, when suddenly the phoebe began flying towards us.
The bird flew clumsily and erratically, bumping into plants on either side. My first thought was that it must be sick, perhaps with the dreaded avian ‘flu, but I had no time to talk, for the bird swooped up and came to an awkward landing directly on top of one of the boy’s baseball cap. Only then did I say, “It is a fledgling. Just learning to fly.”
Meanwhile the fledgling was looking about with a rather alarmed expression. You could almost hear it thinking, “Holy crap! Look where I landed.” Then it bolted, flying straight into the side of an above-ground-pool and crashing to the ground. The boys rushed over and formed a circle around the bird as I said, “Don’t touch it! Let’s see what it will do!”
The bird seemed to be shaking off the effects of a concussion (do birds hear birdies?) and then it looked up at all the faces looking down, and again you could imagine it thinking “Holy Crap!” It panicked and shot straight up around fifteen feet, before it wobbled away to the peak of the roof of a nearby shed. The boys were all laughing and commenting when another phoebe came gracefully flitting over and landed by the first phoebe’s side. Without any prompting from me one of the boys exclaimed, “It’s his mother!” whereupon all the other boys began cheering, “It’s the mother! It’s the mother!” almost like they were spectators at a horse race. Then a staff member called them off to hike, and they rushed away to tell her what they had seen.
I knew I could claim no credit for “showing” the boys anything, and just looked up to the sky and was thankful. It’s amazing what you can see by doing nothing.
Off the beaten path long trampled by those
Thirsting for fortune and hungry for fame
I sit by myself and twirl summer's rose
And wonder if being unknown is a shame.
I don't make fame queen, nor the dollar king,
But am like a boy who has escaped school,
And classmate's shaming, and teacher's hollering.
I forget how it feels to feel like a fool.
I just bask in sunshine like it is a bath
Washing away aches of schooling's cruel wrath.
Though I'm just sitting I progress a path
Which adds up to healing. You do the math.
Soon bells will toll, and they'll resume classes
But I'll not be schooled by roomfuls of asses.
As nations such as Shri Lanka run out of money and their people are told they can’t buy fuel or fertilizer, it seems events are teetering towards situations where the blunders of a few elites can bring about the misery of millions.
The government of Shri Lanka was hard hit by the covid fraud, for the cessation of tourism robbed the nation of much of its income, even as it still had to pay its expenses. As a small nation, its income besides tourism was largely “exports”, as its expenses were largely “imports”. The problem it faced is obvious when you see both their top export and top import was “Mineral fuels including oil”. They exported $695.2 million, which seems like a goodly amount, until you see they imported $2.1 billion, or three times as much.
The doings of a distant island caught my attention because I’m interested in organic fertilizers, and their government decided they could balance their budget a little by stopping the import of chemical fertilizers, and instead using locally-produced organic products. Didn’t work. Maybe they merely didn’t do the substitution corectly, but switching to organic fertilizers resulted in reduced crops, reducing the rice crop which feds the people, and also harming two major exports, namely cereal crops, ($241.4 million), and cotton ($232.8 million). In any case the nation wound up flat broke, and so deeply in debt no one would loan them any further funds.
This demonstrates two things.
First, it demonstrates that the well-meaning ideas of the elite can be badly researched and poorly thought-out, whether they be cancelling tourism or shifting to organic fertilizer. Hunger and the inability to buy gasoline, for millions of the unwashed masses, might not bother the elite, but when those millions stormed into the elite palace of the leader, and they swam in his private pool, the millions got the elite’s attention.
Second, rioting about a problem does not solve the problem. One prays to God to raise up new leaders who are more able to avoid simplistic solutions and who are more able to face the intricate details of complex issues. In the meantime, millions will continue to face the consequences of allowing simpletons to rule.
In the Netherlands the Dutch elite came up with an idealistic plan to reduce problems caused by the nitrogen in fertilizer by simply banning it. Didn’t work. In fact, it was a step too far, for the farmers (who would be bankrupted) immediately rioted, joined by a surprising number of non-farmers. The seriousness of the situation seems underscored by the fact the elite-ruled mainstream media seems determined to ignore the story, or else to fact-check it away.
Again, we see the consequences of allowing people, who feel they are elite and born to govern, invent rules which are bound to create suffering for millions. The millions rise up and say simpletons can’t be allowed to rule them.
Even the price of chocolate candy bars seems to hint at troubles for farmers in faraway Ghana. A candy bar that cost five cents in my boyhood is up to over two dollars, but the increase has not worked down to the farmers of the cocoa. (In this case the simpletons seem to be greedy middlemen).
As the United States is currently ruled by a simpleton, and as one consequence of his misguided energy policies may be famine, I decided maybe I should be more serious about making my garden productive this year. You’d be surprised at how intricate the details of gardening get, even on the small scale of my garden. I have seen I am just as capable of bad judgement as the leaders of Shri Lanka or the Netherlands.
For example, to fight high energy prices I burned a lot of wood last winter. This produced lots of wood ashes. I had heard wood ashes are good fertilizer, so I spread the ashes in my garden. Mistake. Ashes make the soil alkaline, and if the soil is too alkaline some plants are stunted, with leaves that are yellow rather than green. So, I am now conducting experiments involving turning alkaline soil acidic, (“souring” “sweetened” soil), right in the middle of a growing season. This is work which would be unnecessary if only I had gotten things right in the first place.
Considering I am past my prime, I am not fond of unnecessary work. I’m slow enough just doing the necessary. And what really irks me is when it becomes necessary to do work which I never saw coming.
For example, a drought. Last year was so rainy my potatoes rotted, but this year nearly every rain shower or thunderstorm misses us. (In other words, I never saw this coming because it didn’t come). The drought is particularly aggravating when I must water when I should be weeding, for I am watering the weeds.
Also, I had to divert my already-low levels of energy to building fences, for first my chickens and then my lone goat invaded my garden in unhelpful ways. I hate fences. But then, when I thought I had my own beasts corralled, I nearly turned my goat to goat-burger when I saw hoofprints down a row of beans and carrots, with all the plants neatly clipped to stubs. I swore softly and tried to figure out how the beast was getting past my new fence. But then I noticed that besides the goat-sized hoofprints there was a set of tiny hoofprints. Dawn broke on Marblehead. It wasn’t my goat. It was a doe and her fawn.
Oddy, the sight of those tiny prints quelled my anger. How can you get mad at Bambi? At the same time, I recognized the fact I wasn’t angry was likely because I wasn’t hungry. If I was hungry my tolerance would fade. In besieged cities famished citizens have eaten their children, if history can be believed, so maybe I could eat even a cute little Bambi. And maybe venison would supply more protein than beans and carrots. But I went to work putting up more fences, all the same. They were low and flimsy, but I figured a doe wouldn’t jump over them, if she had to leave her fawn behind.
(I hope you are noticing this situation is becoming more complex than one would imagine, when first planting some carrots and beans. Are you gardening vegetables, or venison?)
My garden also had successes, involving benefits brought by the cool weather, and also the fact watering is a job even an old man can do. I like standing about and spraying with a hose, and the deer and her fawn apparently were not fond of peas and lettuce. Those crops prospered. My crop of edible podded peas was especially bountiful, considering the fact not far away the parched lawn sounded crisp when you walked on the grass.
So, I had far more lettuce and peas than I could use, and I decided a good way to defy the government-created inflation was to lower my prices rather than raising them. I lowered prices to zero and had good fun being a philanthropist, giving away lettuce and crunchy, juicy, sweet edible podded peas for free. (Hopefully this rebellious behavior topples the government, or at least slightly decreases inflation.)
As I fought my little war with weeds and deer and potato bugs and drought and the government, I gained a small victory by allowing a certain small patch of weeds to thrive by my peas. (The weed was lamb’s quarters, which is easier to grow than spinach and tastes better, so it is hard to call it a weed,) however this particular patch was infested with aphids. Aphids are the favorite food of ladybugs. I caught every ladybug, (of at least eight different species), that I saw in my garden and brought them to my weeds. To my delight soon there were ladybug larvae on the lamb’s quarters
And soon afterwards not only were there far fewer aphids on those lamb quarters, but there were also fewer potato bug larvae eating my potatoes. Not that there were thousands of ladybugs swarming my garden, but they were around, and had their effect.
There were also other predators, including some small wasp which apparently likes potato bug larvae. I can’t claim to be intentionally breeding such wasps, but maybe I accidentally did so last year, when I allowed potato bugs to get out of hand. The wasp prospered last year, and that means this year they are all over the place, and a potato bug larva often may shrivel due to eggs the wasp laid in its back. In any case, as I walk down my lush row of well-watered potatoes, I’m surprised by how much less time I must spend picking potato bugs from the leaves. In fact I may even get a decent crop. I also have more time to spend weeding and watering other crops.
I bring this up to show that not all ideas involving being “organic” are stupid. I prefer to label myself a “conservationist” rather than an “environmentalist”. The difference being: I get my hands dirty while environmentalists live in ivory towers far from the dirt. I prefer to suffer and learn from my own mistakes, while their mistakes cause millions to suffer, and they only learn by being chased down the street by a howling mob.
The potato patch may well be a small victory, especially if the supply shrinks and the demand grows, and potatoes are in short supply by December. God wiling, I’ll have some big ones to give away for Christmas.
You can’t win them all, and my popcorn patch is a battle I may lose. Corn needs lots of water and is a heavy feeder, but does not like being fed wood ashes at all. The drought prevented the wood ashes from being diluted, and in places the soil was so caustic it burnt the corn at the base. So besides losing some seedlings to cutworms I killed some with my care. What a dope I can be! However, I won’t go down to complete defeat without a fight.
My counterattack was to replant, making sure to dilute the soil, and even including some dilute vinegar to counteract the wood ashes. This created new problems, for when you focus on watering you neglect weeding, and the weeds loved how I had soured the overly sweetened soil. Not that I neglected weeding right by the corn seedlings, but the rows of corn were like alleys between skyscrapers of weeds.
With the weeds becoming such a problem, I had to shift away from watering, yet as I weeded, I was amazed by the roots of the weeds. They formed a thick mesh just below the surface, rather than diving deep to find water in a drought. The weeds did this because their way to find water in a drought was to exploit my watering, and to grab the water at the surface before it could get down to the roots of my corn. These crafty weeds had to go!
With the help of a member of my childcare staff I not only weeded the corn, but raked up grass after mowing and used it to heavily mulch the row, to prevent new weeds. Take that, you suckers!
But solutions create new problems. As corn and grass are closely related, you might think a mulch of rotting grass would release nutrients that corn needs. Wrong. The exact opposite occurs, for the intermediate step, wherein the clippings rot, requires nitrogen the corn also requires. Therefore, you must fertilize not only the corn but also the clippings with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
At this point my eyes strayed to my chicken coop. Chicken manure is so high in nitrogen that you usually have to let it rot for a year and be rinsed of some of its potency, or it will kill plants with kindness. Also, it usually is a disgusting swill that splashes like brown paint when you clean the coop. This year, due to the drought, it was crumbly powder. For that reason alone, it seemed a good time to clean the coop. Also, it seemed that, if I sprinkled this powder well away from the corn, to avoid burning the corn, I could fertilize both the decomposition of grass and the corn. Lastly, I again watered the mulch-concoction with highly diluted vinegar to sour the sweetened soil.
Hmm. My garden sounds more and more like the test tubes of a mad scientist rather than anything remotely “organic”. Also, it would not surprise me much if my chemistry killed my corn. Yet maybe, just maybe, we will witness a late season rally, and the comeback of an underdog, and I will harvest some popcorn, which is easy to store for the winter, as you need only to convince your wife to make the dried ears a pretty ornament she hangs on her walls as fall decor.
I belabor you with all this to demonstrate how even an old-timer like myself is still learning, and how a garden is not a completed thing but rather a work in progress. I am constantly running up against new problems, and consulting other small gardeners for their ideas, seeking solutions. In like manner, if you want to formulate a sane government policy you need to gather many such minds, so you know of many solutions, and also of many problems that solutions reveal. It is through sifting through many ideas that a government can come up with a route, (or perhaps ten routes) to try, and these routes are only trials. If you want to formulate an insane government policy you walk into a situation certain you already know the answer, and you order wise people, who know better, about.
Oddly, this brings me back to the doe and fawn chowing down in my garden. This is seen as a bad thing by some globalists, for they (in Africa) apparently feel “bush game” allows “indigenous” populations to eat even when their gardens are taken away, when they should be forced to move from their homelands to allow for some monoculture which elitists feel is wise. For example: planting oil palms which are supposed to replace oil wells. Such policy is reminiscent of the clearances of Highlands in Scotland in the early 1800’s, because sheep seemed more profitable than people. In the short-term sheep indeed were more profitable than people, but such policy seemed less smart at the start of the Crimean War, when soldiers were needed. The Highlanders had been the best fighters, yet few were now available, and sheep were a lousy replacement.
It follows that one aspect of a monoculture of oil palms is that it wrecks both the natural and social environment. It not only drives away the “bush game”, it also drives away the “indigenous” people. Yet the elite investors growing square miles of oil palms insist they do so because they love the environment. They destroy an environment that once held five native villages, twenty species of native animals, and 200 native plants, because oil palms are better “for the environment” than fossil fuels. Such madness is why I refuse to call myself an “environmentalist”, and prefer “conservationist”. (It should be noted that some who invested in oil palms only did so to walk away with buckets of money from subsidies, and cared not one hoot about either society or ecology.)
In any case, I figure I’m an “indigenous” sort of fellow. My family has lived in these parts for four hundred years. So that makes the deer munching my carrots and beans my “bush game”. And together we represent riffraff the highly educated elite will wish removed so they can establish a National Park “for the foxes” (IE: because they want to go fox hunting.) (I have noticed the elite never say they do anything “for themselves.” If it isn’t “for the environment” it’s “for the children”. They see themselves as altruistic. That is why they are so puzzled when they’re chased down the street by a howling mob.)
Now, as an “indigenous” person one characteristic I should have is a nigh mystical closeness with nature. Not that I notice it all that much, but I do know the correct facial expressions. I used to hang out with the Navajo, and they showed me how to act when the tourists were about. And that is what elitists are: Tourists on their own planet. However, when no elitists are around, what should I do?
I decided I should have a talk with the deer, and an opportunity presented itself when I weeded late into the twilight, one evening, past the time the deer thought I should have gone home.
When I popped my head up in the corn patch and began talking, the doe did not seem surprised, and just listened to me rant.
I ranted on at great length about how, if the deer persisted on eating my garden, I would feel justified to eat them. After all, if I fed them all summer, they should feed me all winter. The doe did not seem the slightest bit offended, and stood listening. But then I noticed something, and said, “Hey! Where is your fawn?” Only then did the doe turn and walk away.
I then did what indigenous people do, which is to act as if family and community are real things. The elite, who seemingly know only divorce and abortion, are somewhat mystified by such earthy behavior, but all it boils down to is “comparing notes”. In the process of ordinary chitchat, the subject of deer was raised, and I swiftly learned of two events.
First, an animal lover had, to their own great dismay, struck and killed a fawn with their vehicle on a highway a third of a mile from my farm, two nights before. Second, that same night, and the following night, a lady who lived a half mile away had let her dog out to pee before going to bed, and the dog had walked out into a spotlight-lit lawn and been met by a doe who came out of the woods. The dog was young, skinny, had short, reddish-brown fur, and was roughly the same size as a fawn. As the woman watched amazed the doe and dog pranced and frolicked together for fifteen minutes, before they called it quits, and the dog came in for bed. That this happened one time seemed odd, but the second time it happened made it all the more bizarre. Was the doe in need of a foster child?
Now, if you are of the elite, I’m sure you will recognize the above tale as one of those quaint but fictitious creations regurgitated by primitive peoples. However, if you are afflicted by indigenousness, it is just one of those relationships you notice, like the ladybug’s relationship with healthy plants in the garden. Just as you don’t call the doings of ladybugs fictitious, you don’t call the doings of deer and dogs fictitious either.
Nor does the story stop there. Just as fawns can be struck by cars, leaving does aggrieved, does can be struck by cars, leaving fawns orphaned.
A child arrived at our childcare and described how she had seen two men hoisting “road kill” into the back of their pickup truck only a quarter mile from my garden. (Why waste the meat?) My initial (and unspoken) thought was that the poor doe who had lost her fawn had followed her fawn into death. But later that same day a fawn without a mother startled the children as they hiked, by bolting across their path, at my Childcare.
This would suggest that, within the proximity of my garden, was a doe missing a fawn, and a fawn missing a doe. Apparently, this cruel modern world causes broken homes among deer as well as humans. The question then becomes, is there any social worker in nature who can unite the lonely-heart doe with the lonely-heart fawn?
Heck if I know. All I know is that, with all this drama going on, they stayed the heck out of my garden. Not that it will last. The children rushed up to me today with the news they had seen a doe with not one, but two, fawns, just across the pasture from my garden. I sense an imminent threat.
What is the threat? Is it that the doe will bring her two fawns into my garden to browse? Or is that the elite will step in to help?
Judging from prior behavior, the elite response to the situation will favor deer over farmers. They will ban automobiles, for killing a fawn and a doe. They will not ban deer, for wrecking my carrots and beans.
Me? Well, I may work a bit more on my fences, though I hate fences. Putting them up is hard work, and I’m too old for blisters on my palms, but will likely suffer a few more. But a few more blisters before I die seems worth it, if I avoid banning deer and banning automobiles, while getting the job of growing my carrots and beans done.
Elitists? Isn’t it odd how, when they erect their fences, they never get blisters on their palms? All they get is chased down streets by howling mobs.
I think that, when people first start to pay attention to sea-ice, they tend to be shocked by the amazing amount of melting that occurs every summer. I know I was. Initially it dismayed me, for it seemed to fit into the narrative of man-caused Global Warming, but then I looked deeper, and studied history, and became aware such melting occurred every summer, as far back as records go. For example, back in the early Cold War records of military outposts out on the sea-ice, (in places like Fletcher’s Ice Island), there are requisitions for hip-waders, because the slush got so deep in July. In any case, my alarm turned to wonder.
My wonder increased when I became aware of a fascinating factoid. The North Pole actually receives more heat on a given day than the equator, during the height of summer. This seemed impossible, and it was difficult for me to get my mind around the idea, for the sun at noon on the equator is so hot that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out into it. Meanwhile at noon at the Pole the sun (at the equanox) is only at 23.5 degrees, and beats down with nowhere near the intensity.
However, that is only at noon. At a location in an equatorial time zone where the sun rises at 6:00, by 4:45 in the afternoon it has sunk to 22.5 degrees, and is actually lower than the polar sun, and at 6:00 it is setting, and abruptly not shining at all. The next morning it rises at 6:00, but is lower than the polar sun until 7:30. Meanwhile the polar run rolls around and around the horizon, neither rising nor setting (visibly), but simply shining from 23.5 degrees constantly. What this means is that the equatorial sun only outshines the polar sun nine hours a day, and the other fifteen hours the polar sun dominates the scorecard. In essence it is like the race between the tortoise and the hare. The equator races ahead for a while, but the plodding Pole wins the race.
I found an interesting chart which shows how powerful the Polar sun gets in terms of Watts per square meter per day. The first chart shows that by around May 12 the Pole is matching the equator, with both areas receiving around 412 w/m2.
By June 2 the Pole has increased to over 500 w/m2, while the equator has actually decreased slightly (due to the sun drifting north towards the Tropic of Cancer.)
By the equinox the Pole is receiving 550 w/m2 a day while the Equator dips below 400 w/m2, at which point we should ask ourselves, “Why aren’t palm trees growing at the Pole?”
Or at least we should ask, “Why doesn’t the sea-ice melt completely?”
The answer is that it very nearly does. When we look at the “volume” graph it swiftly becomes apparent that a colossal amount, roughly 20,000 km3, melts every year, leaving barely 5,000 km3. I’d like to see a calculation involving how much heat is used up simply moving all that water through the phase change from solid to liquid, changing available energy into potential energy, without changing the actual temperature a single degree. A fabulous amount of heat must be sucked up. Of course, all that heat is released when the phase change goes the other way in the autumn, and roughly 20,000 km3 of sea-ice is recreated. But that is what is so fabulous and wonderful about the yearly undulations.
The downward blips in this year’s line in the above graph occur because some goodly surges of thicker-than-usual sea-ice have been expelled down through Fram Strait, especially compared to last year. (In fact some of the ice was thicker precisely because it was held back last year.) This will effect the Atlantic to the south, which I may wonder about later in this post, but the focus of this current wondering is the enormity of the melting that goes on up there every summer.
Back when I was first learning about sea-ice I liked to peruse old aerial photos of the polar ice. I noted some showed meltwater pools that formed wandering channels on their way to some weakness in the sea-ice, where the water vanished down through a crack or a hole. At times these channels would approach a hole in the sea-ice from all sides, creating a look like a spiderweb, except spiderwebs don’t usually have so many branches, nor do webs get smaller and finer, away from the center of the web. I also noted that as soon as the sea-ice began to crack up these ice-geological formations ceased to be, and even meltwater pools found it harder to grow to a significant size. I was not particularly political; I was merely observing.
In those days there were wonderful cameras drifting about the Arctic Sea, sending us pictures via satellite. In 2013 the “North Pole Camera” witnessed the formation of a particularly splendid meltwater pool. Here is a time lapse of that pool’s creation:
The media got wind of the pool and dubbed it “Lake North Pole” and suggested it was alarming, leading to sensationalist posts on websites such as “Treehugger”. Here is a post from that time from their archive, (although it lacks a little of its authenticity because they “updated” it in 2021.)
At the time I commented at the “Treehugger” site what I had observed from aerial photos, stating the sea-ice was particularly thick at the “Lake North Pole” location, or else the water would have drained down through a hole or a crack, and adding such drainage likely would soon happen. To my astonishment my comment was deleted. It was not rude or scornful at all, but I suppose my observations did oppose the idea the meltwater pool was especially alarming. I felt a little sad about being excluded from an interesting discussion, but there were other websites where discussion was allowed, so I abandoned “Treehugger.” Also, I had started an obscure website of my own, and could post observations (even silly ones) to my heart’s content there.
Shortly thereafter a crack or hole did form, and Lake North Pole vanished in a twinkling. Furthermore, the NorthPole Camera showed the buoy draped in a fresh fall of snow. The media lost interest with amazing speed, but I noted my observations, and got quite a surprise. My obscure website, which seldom got more than 20 views, abruptly got 300 in a few hours. Here is the post where it happened, and I haven’t “updated” it, so it retains authenticity.
Considering my writing had brought me nothing but rejection slips for a half century, perhaps it is understandable that I was swayed by the attention I received. But it is also a little embarrassing, looking back, especially because I was not an authority. I was merely an observer, and wondered about what I was witnessing, and while I had been right about Lake North Pole vanishing some of my other conclusions were dead wrong, and I to admit it, which is never much fun (unless you are among especially good-hearted people.)
A lot of good discussion occurred, and I met good people who corrected me and who also shared wonderful observations of their own, but, sadly, there were also people who could never confess their conclusions were dead wrong. “Winning” the debate was more important to them than seeing the Truth. I think “winning” became overriding because “winning” brought money, fame, and power among a particularly repulsive bunch, now disparaged as “The Swamp”. In my view the “winners” sold their souls to the devil, and lost their grip on Truth, which is beauty and power and all we need.
In any case, a decade has now past, and now if you type “Lake North Pole Vanishes” into the “Bing” search engine you will see it is I who have vanished. In the “google” search engine “Lake North Pole Vanishes” still allows my old post to come up as around the eighth link, but if you search “Lake North Pole” I am nowhere to be found, even ten to twenty pages in. “Arctic Sea-ice” will not find me either, which is ironic, because initially I put “Arctic Sea-Ice” as a heading to all my sea-ice posts because it originally tended to raise my standing on search engines.
This is sad, for being shadow banned in this manner gets in the way of having discussions with non-political people who simply want to share observations, and to wonder. Now it seems hard to find that sort of innocent discussion. And at times all current wondering seems to be about political ploys, rather than about the sea-ice at all. But there is a good side to being shadow banned as well.
The good side? I suppose it is that I was originally drawn to sea-ice for reasons that had little to do with drawing attention to myself. The focus was upon sea-ice, not me. But once you become infatuated with “clicks” you unconsciously gravitate towards drawing attention to yourself, hogging the spotlight, and tap dancing across the sea-ice with a top hat and cane. Shame on me! I confess. I did it, and what’s more, at times it was jolly good fun!
Other times? Well, preening in a mirror gets boring. Therefore, it was good that I was “marginalized” and “shadow banned”, because it got me away from those who encouraged me to make a spectacle of myself. And this allowed me to again focus on sea-ice, and furthermore to realize that sea-ice was never actually my primary focus.
Actually, my initial focus was Greenland Vikings, but when I thought about it, I realized that too was but a side-focus, part of a greater focus on sea-faring men of all sorts, which also was a side-focus on a greater focus on adventure in general, which in turn was a side focus on….Hey! What is my focus, anyhow?
This led to an interesting period of reflection, which reminded me a little of being small and being asked what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. I always felt a little awkward, for it felt a little like a trap. If I answered honestly to the grown-ups, (which I seldom dared do), I likely would have responded, “I want to be free.”
In a sense it is like the Cole Porter song Will Rogers liked to sing, “Don’t Fence Me In.” Only rather than riding across the open range, I am riding across the world of thought. Sea-ice is but one topic of many. If I got stuck on sea-ice I would be like a bee stuck in one flower, (perhaps a pitcher plant or Venus-flytrap).
I lack the discipline it takes to be a true authority. Even in the realm of sea-ice it seems that there are specific areas and fields of study, so that one person may be an authority on icebergs and another on the algae that grows on the underside of ice. Scientific authorities are specialists who have amazing focus and discipline and attend to meticulous details, and I simply can’t match them. I haven’t the time for that. I’d rather pick their brains like thieves pick pockets, and then go hopping off like a happy-go-lucky Brer Rabbit with the cream of their ideas, the culmination of all their hard work, as a bit of trivia to add to my vast store.
When I think hard about it, I am not a true scientist, though I love Truth. I bounce about from topic to topic too much, (as this post is doing). Thus, what I know is factual, but not deeply researched. It is disparaged as mere factoids, and trivia, and I agree it is factoids and trivia, but feel it has value. Perhaps I’m not a scientist, but, to coin a word, I am a “triviaist” (as opposed to trivialist), and to be a triviaist is not a trivial thing.
How so? Well, if you know a little about a lot of topics you may not have the depth of knowledge a scientist has in his specific cubicle, but you can spot when that same scientist is straying outside his cubical into “an area outside of his expertise.” Why? Because your casual knowledge of Greenland Vikings and the Medieval Warm Period torpedoes some statement he makes about “modern warming being unprecedented.” Or perhaps your knowledge of tree rings, because you have actually cut down trees and counted the rings and have seen which are widely spaced and which are not, discounts some claim they make about a particular tree proving the “hockey stick graph” is accurate.
As an aside I should mention that, years ago, I was not paid to count tree rings. I was paid to cut trees. In fact, the boss back then was likely annoyed I was wasting time counting rings, but didn’t fire me because I worked hard otherwise, and a boss has to put up with a certain amount of weirdness in his employees. But a triviaist has that weirdness. He gets off track, and counts rings when he’s supposed to be cutting wood.
As a further aside I’ll state some do not like people who don’t stay on track, as if people were trains. If you “can’t look at hobbles and can’t stand fences” they describe you as being “off the rails”. They love regulation and dislike liberty, which means they miss what a triviaist has to offer, for a triviaist demands the freedom to be fascinated by whatever fascinates, even if is tree rings when he is supposed to be cutting wood.
I don’t doubt a triviaist is a royal pain when young, if you are a boss and trying to train him, but if that same triviaist has managed to survive fifty years the sheer bulk of the trivia in his brain starts to have unforeseen benefits. Let me give an example.
As my mind jumps from topic to topic it can arrive at places that truly seem “off the rails”. For example, a casual study of a battle in America’s Revolutionary War focused on the essential aid given by a certain general from Poland, which made me curious about the general, which made me curious about Poland, which made me curious about why the rest of Europe wanted to wipe Poland off the map, which made me curious about democratic societies which monarchies didn’t like which were favorable to liberty in eastern Europe, in the general area of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, back into the mists of history. So now, if I meet a person from Poland (or Ukraine) they are amazed I in some ways know more about heroes of their land than they do, due to all the trivia I’ve collected.
What has this to do with sea-ice? Well, the last good pictures we got from the arctic sea (not including MosaIc Expedition pictures) were from the final Barneo blue-ice jetport, which was a Russian base served by Ukrainian jets. One became aware the man masterminding the unique Barneo experience had to walk a razor’s edge of diplomacy, concerning certain frictions between Russia and Ukraine, and that his death would leave a void it was unlikely could be filled. So maybe my trivia included knowledge of impending trouble, which an on-track person would not have seen coming.
Not that I’m a prophet. I am no better at forecasting humans than I am at the weather, which is not very good, (though better than some.)
What I think a triviaist does, in following his mind hither and yon “off the rails” is actually in a way “on track”, albeit a sidetrack. The various subjects are usually related, though often to onlookers they seem so dimly related the leaps of logic cannot be followed. But the triviaist is following something. I often wonder what prompted me to veer far from my intended subject, but there can be no denying the prompting is there. Call it a psychological problem, such as avoidance, or pretty-it-up by calling it “intuition”, the triviaist sees more broadly than a specialist.
So, personally, in my younger day I was not a master of any particular skill, but rather a Jack-of-all-trades. If you wanted a job done expertly you would hire an expensive plumber, but if your pipe was leaking and you couldn’t afford a plumber you might hire me. (I could handle the easy jobs, and also could say when you needed a real plumber.) (But if I really needed the money, I would do jobs I didn’t know how to do, learning as I progressed, which lead to some hair-raising problems I always seemed to find the answers to, sometimes at the last second and by the skin of my teeth, sometimes due to asking for help from experts, both worldly and Divine.)
I suppose a triviaist is what is described as being: “A Jack of all trades and master of none.” It involves humbling shoes to walk in, for most everywhere you look you see people superior, but the ego can cling to one bit of pride. One has more “general knowledge”. Then one asks, “What good is general knowledge?”
Rather than predict the future, what a triviaist gains through “general knowledge” is to see the Now. One sees the present tense in a far broader way than a specialist can. A specialist tends towards myopia and must struggle against being prone to being one-sided, while a triviaist can see from many angles because that happens to be what he or she likes to do. This is helpful, when it comes to seeing the Now, because the Now has an enormity which cannot be comprehended from any one chair. Despite all the scorn “committees” get (and sometimes earn) the real purpose of a “committee” is to look at an issue or problem from more than one angle, and to broaden the view. For this same reason kings had advisors.
There is very little prediction and prophecy involved. The simple fact of the matter is that the solution to a problem first involves taking a hard look at what the problem is, in the present tense. The future will take care of itself; first you must see the problem in the Now.
The problem with the Global Warming mind-set is that it is so pretentious, assuming it possesses prophetic powers, that it fails to see the Now. In essence it tramples all over the present tense, flailing at a future when it cannot see the Now.
I don’t much care about anything else but the Now. The future tends to be worry. What good is worry? The Now is enough for me, as it usually gives me a boot in the butt and determines what I do next. If my triviaist tendencies have me studying Poland when I should be making money, a threatening letter from a bill-collector is the Now, and the trivia that interests me next is my next way of paying the bills, whether it be to focus on hard work, or studying the value of my coin collection before selling it. The future takes care of itself when you attend to the Now.
Despite all evidence Global Warming is not a dire threat, the Global Warming mindset has gotten so completely out of hand that its illogic itself has become the Now. How so? Because its believers are doubling the cost of oil, and fueling horrific inflation which is crippling the fixed income of elders and reducing the life’s savings of younger people.
Today I saw a poll which indicated that a majority of ordinary people felt that the believers in Global Warming fully intended that all the hardships (which ordinary people are now suffering) to occur. It was no accident. The people of the so-called “Swamp” fully intended to inflict suffering. It was their solution to a problem which they, as prophets, could foresee. Ordinary people lack their prophetic powers, and their ability to control the weather and heal all viruses. They, as gods, must not be bothered by the observations of mere ordinary people.
What amazing arrogance! What audacious gall, to suggest you control the weather and control disease! They don’t. All they are doing is hurting the backbone of society, the salt of the earth. They are sawing off the branch they are seated on, expecting a couple of doves at the end of the branch to hold the branch up when they are done. They are in for a crash, cruising for a bruising.
I honestly feel that the worst of these arrogant people never really believed Global Warming was a threat. It was just a tool they used to scare people into compliance. Now they are somewhat relieved, for they no longer have to pretend sea-ice matters. They increasingly are showing their true colors. Sea-ice never did matter to them. When they acted interested, it was pure pretense. Their real interest was power. Not Truth.
As a triviaist I could offer them historical examples of what happens to people who put power above Truth, but, considering they couldn’t hear simple Truth about sea-ice, I doubt they can hear Truth now that they are going for broke. I could tell them that when they go for broke they will end up broke and broken, but they won’t listen, so now the main aim is to avoid going down in flames to a smoking ruin with them.
Earlier I stated that, while I am not an expert, a triviaist has an ability to see when an expert is “outside his area of expertise.” In like manner, while confessing I am not a prophet (and am certainly not a god), I have an ability to see that, when a politician becomes so drunk with power that he deems himself a prophet and a god, and when he will bully anyone who dares suggest otherwise, he is “outside his area of expertise.” He has no idea of the powers he is messing with, like a little child playing with a hand grenade.
The frustrating thing is that I am in no position to dole out what the bozos deserve. I am an unwilling pacifist. I am not made spiritual because of this scripture:
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Rather I am made spiritual because the truth is I can’t do a damn thing about lunatics in Washington but cast a single vote, and they can negate my vote with evil fraud.
Therefore, as a triviaist, I just go to what next fascinates me. Currently growing food interests me more than sea-ice, (because I don’t want to starve), and most of my posts this summer will be about dirt rather than the North Pole.
Sadly, there are not even the cameras on buoys up there, which once gave me great relief when a heat wave was hitting me “down south.” I can no longer leave a sweaty garden and bask in views of cool sea-ice. However, true to my triviaist nature, I’ll likely annoy my boss (myself) by not weeding the garden on occasion, and instead wandering off to look at the sea-ice situation, even if it only involves graphs.
While there is no excuse for skipping work, I could attempt to justify my behavior by stating I was looking for hints next winter might be going to be especially cold. (Not that knowing would do me much good.)
And indeed, there are some “concerning” examples of cooling, the greatest of which is the fact the cold La Nina won’t quit, and in fact is stronger than it was on its first year. It is interesting to compare September 2020 (end of first year) with now, (start of third). (The maps I use are anomaly maps, and red does not indicate warm but rather above-normal. Blue does not indicate cold but below-normal. IE: They blue water at the equator is warmer than the red water at the Pole.) But here is September 2020:
And here is now:
Likely it is unfair to compare September one year with June on another, for they are at opposite ends of the melt-season. Therefore ignore the brick red arctic in 2020 compared with the white sea-ice of 2022.
But the equator is different, and knows no summer and winter, and I find it interesting that in 2020 the La Nina was mostly south of the equator, but in 2022 the cold has crept up to the coast of California.
Also notice that the waters south of Greenland, which were a hot spot in 2020, are now below normal. Very Interesting. I wonder if all the sea-ice jettisoned through Fram Strait (and to a lesser degree through Nares Strait on the other side of Greenland), may be cooling the Gulf Stream, which could cool Europe eventually.
Back before shadow-banning I had a wonderful on-line talk with an alert individual who awoke me to the idea that a “freshwater-lens” might not be a phenomenon restricted to the arctic but might also include waters around sea-ice ejected into the Atlantic. After all, while sea-ice is flat bergs seldom thicker than ten feet, glaciers calve amazing icebergs as huge as a mile long and a hundred feet tall, (which means they have keels nine hundred feet deep.) Sailors say that as you even near such massive bergs the air gets colder. So too the water must get colder. And the phenomenon of cold fresh water on top of warmer saline water could occur well south of the arctic.
Such a discussion would involve the Now, and have value because a chilled Gulf Stream may influence the productivity of European farms. Then informed farmers might alter what they planted, in order to be more productive with cold weather crops. (A huge discharge of sea-ice in 1817 may have caused “The Year With No Summer” in Europe, and the consequential famines.) But having such discussions would be problematic if the topic countered “Global Warming”.
Rather than bicker with Alarmists and cancel-culture, I’d rather just move on to a different topic: The “extent” and “volume” graphs. They disagree with each other, for “extent” shows sudden loss, as “volume” shows a complete cessation of loss. How is this possible? Before I explain, check out the two graphs. Here is the “extent” graph showing a drop from nearly “normal” levels to what has been more “normal” in recent years. (red line).
And here is the “Volume” graph for the same time, showing that the volume, which had been dropping, now refuses to drop even a bit. (black line)
This seeming contradiction is explained by the fact “extent” is not the same as “area” or “volume”. IE: A patch of sea which is 85% open water and 15% sea-ice may only be 15% covered, in terms of “area”, but it is 100% covered in terms of “extent”. However, should that same area be swept free of ice “area” only loses 15% while “extent” loses 100%. Meanwhile the place where all the ice is swept-to becomes crowded and perhaps is 90% ice, which increases “area” in that spot to 90%, even as that spot, in terms of “extent”, was100% ice-covered before, and remains 100% despite the increase of crowding. Lastly, if the winds are cold and the water is cold, not one bit of the ice may have melted, which means the “volume” stays the same despite the ways the other numbers change.
Coming up with these numbers is very difficult, and I pity the scientists stuck with the drudgery of such toil. They likely suffer eyestrain, scrutinizing satellite photos, and they make me glad I am a triviaist and can just pickpocket their work and skip away avoiding the work they do.
But what is especially fun is to become a lurker, and haunt the periphery of an Alarmist website where people are totally sold on the dogma of Global Warming, and watch how deeply concerned they are by any indication the sea-ice is not melting away at an unprecedented rate. They were especially upset when the “extent” graph touched “normal levels” briefly, but wildly enthusiastic when it soon plunged. Then one of their members noticed the “volume” graph didn’t drop, and innocently wondered if maybe they were just seeing how a fortnight of north winds spread sea-ice south in Barents Sea, and then a following fortnight’s south wind compressed the sea-ice north again. I cringed, for I knew what was coming. It is why I lurk and never comment on such sites. The innocent fellow got pummeled as a “denier”. But all he had done was see the Now.
I prefer the community of gardeners, for you are not accused of being a “denier” nearly so much. True, you can run into politics if you praise chemical fertilizer and pesticides, but largely you are among people who are desperately trying to keep their plants alive midst an onslaught of bad weather and bugs, and everyone is equal. It is so refreshing, after being called a “denier” for simply telling the truth.
The truth is that there is a slight chill in the air. It appears in the temperatures at the Pole, which, after the last spike of warm Atlantic air surged up that way last winter, have spent more time below normal than I remember ever seeing.
I don’t claim to know what this means. I just collect trivia. And a lot of trivia is not as warm as it was. The UAH temperatures for the planet dropped nearly a tenth of a degree in May, to .17 above recent normals, from .26 above in April.
Chances are that graph will drop further in June, if certain climate models are correct. Usually, such models are inclined to exaggerate warming, but check this model’s forecast out for June:
I selfishly like how this model shows New Hampshire as slightly above normal, for that bodes well for warmth-loving crops in my garden like corn, squash, beans, tomatoes and peppers, but it unnerves me slightly to see such a swath of the tropics a little cooler than normal. This model is usually as warmth-loving as my beans. What is it seeing? Especially southeast of South America. That big blue blotch is (I assume) an obvious model mistake, but the model must have been seeing something to make such a mistake, especially as it is usually mistaken in a warmer direction.
Chill in the tropics unnerves me because things there are usually so stable. The Pole gets six-month days and six-month nights, but the tropics get twelve hour days all the time. My neck of the woods gets wild swings in temperature due to warm fronts and cold fronts, but such fronts are washed out if they can even reach the periphery of the tropics. The tropics have no wild swings in temperature, and therefore it is disconcerting when Joe Bastardi, on his blog at the Weatherbell site, puzzles over the chill forecast over Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
Mr. Bastardi noticed a similar chill over tropical Africa quite accidentally. He was merely investigating media reports of a heatwave on the north coast of Africa. The north coast was bright red on the anomaly map, but the tropical guts of the continent was blue and even green, on the anomaly maps.
To be looking at Africa in a post about Arctic Sea-ice may seem off track, but that is how a triviaist mind works. It knows the Now knows no boundaries, and that there may be some correlation between the equator and the Pole.
In any case I wish my friend Robert Felix hadn’t died due to an adverse reaction to the covid vaccine, and his “Ice Age Now” site hadn’t been effectively “disappeared” from the web. His site was a treasure trove of information about where on the globe it was cooling, which the media does not report.
In the current case some unexpected cooling is appearing, and I sure wish we could talk about it like sane people, witnessing the Now and deciding what would be best to do. The fact the mention of any cooling has become a politically incorrect subject (which some of the cancel culture are appalled by) strikes me as absurd. It is what it is. I note it and move on.
The “green” agenda of his fraudulency, Biden, is having the consequences which people like me, (people who are dubious [to say the least] about “Global Warming”), have been warning about. We were warning twenty years ago. Ten years ago. Last year.
Basically, we were saying fossil fuels might have a bad side, but they also had a good side. Before we banned them, we should be sure we had a viable alternative, or we would lose the “good side”.
Well, we are losing the “good side”, as Biden does his best to prevent the production of coal, oil and gas. The “good side” was warm houses in winter, cheap fertilizer for our crops, cheap transport of essential goods, mobility of labor at low costs, low costs for the manufacturing of goods, to begin a partial list of benefits, (not mentioning plastics.) Now, with even a small part of that “good side” removed, we are seeing how much more expensive life is.
Is it worth it? At best, using the most biased models, abandoning fossil fuels might decrease the warming of the planet .05 degrees a year. (And there is debate about whether a warmer planet might be a better planet, more like periods of prosperity called “The Medieval Warm Period” and “The Roman Climate Optimum”.)
Now that we are just beginning to feel the pain of Biden’s green agenda, the answer seems to be “this is not worth it.” But, sorry to say, it is too late. Elections have consequences, even if they are rigged, and we now are witnessing the bleep hit the fan. It will get worse before it gets better.
For the trusting individuals who believed Biden was “moderate” I imagine it is a great shock to witness the destruction of the stability Trump had established, and to furthermore realize the destruction reaches levels unseen even in the lifetimes of our great-grandparents. Not that our great-grandparents knew of the modern miracle called “baby formula”; (they used a “wet nurse” instead,) but our great-grandparents never witnessed a government so inept that it manufactured a shortage of wet-nurses. For trusting, suburbanite housewives, (who apparently formed a sold block of Biden voters, women certain Biden was sane,) it is jarring to see he is not.
For trusting people who worked tedious jobs for decades, trusting their pension would mean something, it is a shock to see inflation erode their fixed income. It will be sad if they find it hard to afford heat next winter. It will be sadder if there is no heat to be had, and oil must be rationed.
Me? I lost faith early in life, when it came to authorities, and I had little belief any pension would be worth it. I was certain the bleep would hit the fan decades ago. This freed me from ever needing to stick with a job for the attached pension, for I “knew” the national debt was too high during the time Jimmy Carter was president, and was “certain” the inflation, (which was pretty bad back then), would spiral completely out of control. I was wrong. Some of my friends who had more faith in the system than I did retired at age fifty with fat pensions and have lived comfortable retirements, as I’ve had to go on working, and working, and working.
Now some of those friends, who retired at age fifty, are thinking maybe they need to go back to work at age seventy. That’s how bad the “green energy” inflation is. They look at their bills for lighting their houses and keeping the furnace going, and inflation is 50%. They could handle bills of $500.00, but $1000.00 wreaks their budget, and they consider rejoining the world of a working man. Welcome back.
Me? I’ve gone on working, and working, and working, but never for one boss. I’ve been free. I work for people I like, but, should the rot set in and a boss start to reek, I have always been free to say, “Sorry, Charlie”, and depart. So what if I lost health insurance? I was hale and hearty without it. So what if I lost a potential pension? I was sure the world would never pay the pension when it was due.
Now it seems I was right, after all. Politicians do not respect their elders in the manner scriptures command, and rather look for ways to avoid paying what they promised. Their breaking-of-promises is most ugly when their way of avoiding payments is to exterminate the elderly they promised to pay.
The most obvious and odious example of such filthy behavior was when President Trump made-available hospital ships and convention centers for people stricken with the coronavirus, but Governor Cuomo refused to send the ill to such highly equipped places, and instead sent the ill to ill-equipped old soldier’s homes and senior citizen facilities. This spread the corona virus among the very elders who should have been most protected, and roughly 10,000 died. Yet this in turn saved New York State roughly a billion dollars, because if those elders lived it cost roughly $100,000 per person per year to honor elders. 10,000 dead “saved” a billion. Killing elders may not be honoring them, but modern politicians know little about honor when a billion dollars is involved.
This didn’t surprise me, for, as I stated, I had little trust. I grew up in a rich town and knew how vile and fetid bigwig fat cats can be. I was repelled, and, though my disgust forced me to become downwardly mobile, I discovered the opposite of fetid is the fragrance of freedom. Money was not my master, and the blandishments of insurance and a pension could never seduce me into working for a boss who was not righteous. So what?
So…I lacked insurance and a pension. I’m still working at age 69, and qualify as poor, but I have ten grandchildren, while Bill and Hillary Clinton have zero. (And they are still working, too.)
Considering I’m sixty-nine, some ask me why I don’t apply for social security. Even though I keep working and working and working, friends say I should collect the benefits and then let the government take them back when I pay my taxes. But I find it hard to stomach asking. I have never thought Social Security was secure. I assumed the politicians had itchy fingers and would plunder the funds. The little I knew, investigating Social Security, seemed to affirm my distrust.
When President FDR created Social Security in 1935, he imagined the money collected from workers would go into a fund which the government would care for. The fund would grow, for the hardship of the Great Depression caused the life expectancy of men to sink to 56.6 years, which meant that most men paid into the fund and never collected a cent. They didn’t mind, (much), for Newspapers highlighted the first, prune-faced elders gratefully collecting their Social Security checks, even though they had paid little or nothing into the fund. A working man could feel good he helped elders.
Despite initial subtractions for elders who paid little into the fund, for the most part the fund grew, with more people paying in than collected. The life expectancy of women never surpassed 70 years until 1949, and as recently as 1969 the life expectancy of men was 66.8 years. This meant men collected for less than two years after paying in for forty-five or even fifty years. The fund was bound to grow. Basically, most people who collected in 1969 were widows, stay-at-home Moms who could expect to live to be 74.3 years as their husbands died at 66.8. Social Security was a good deal, a kind deal, a mercy for widows, but a doomed deal, because the fund grew too large.
1969 also marked a huge increase in the amount of people paying into Social Security, as the “Baby Boom” generation began to work, (albeit erratically.) The fund expanded, and politicians felt such an enormous amount of money should be invested wisely, but I think the investments were unwise, for rather than the fund now being more enormous, as it should be after the “Baby Boomers” made payments for a half century, the fund is basically bankrupt. Where did all that money go?
Ask the politicians. It will take a bit of sodium pentothal to get an honest answer.
Basically, to be blunt, they used up the money for bribes. They like to make bribery sound altruistic, “preforming services for constituents”, but, basically, they gave the money to people who had not paid into the fund, and who had no reason to expect benefits. The politicians would always claim they were “helping the poor”, but in truth they were bribing voters to vote for them. And now the money is all gone and the only way to pay the Baby Boomers will be to print money, which causes inflation and makes a Social Security check basically worthless. Where’s the “security” in a check that barely pays for heat and electricity in January, and leaves nothing for food?
I hate to say, “I told you so”, but I told you so. I wish I’d been wrong. In fact, I thought I was wrong, when my friends were retiring twenty years ago with cushy pensions, and I had to keep working and working and working. They had trusted what I didn’t trust, and they were reaping what I didn’t sow. I was the grasshopper, and they were the ants. But now….they face bankruptcy, as I’ve been bankrupt, (or at least hand-to-mouth), all along. Welcome back, fellows! Hope you enjoyed your long vacations, but its time to get back to work.
Just today, besides running my Childcare, I huffed and puffed out in a cold rain in my garden hoeing together thirty hills to plant winter squash in. God willing, each hill will bear three vines and each vine will produce three to ten squashes. Assuming only three per plant, that’s nine squashes per hill, and 30 hills will give me 270 winter squash. Assuming an average weight of 4 pounds, that’s more than half a ton of squash.
I doubt I can eat half a ton of squash next winter. In fact, I’ll have an excess to feed others with. Hopefully they’ll have something to trade in return that I desire, and we can call it “barter”. But if my neighbor is broke, unable to pay for (or find) oil to heat his home, (due to Biden’s policy) and unable to afford squash at the store-with-empty-shelves, because berserk inflation has a squash costing fifty dollars, I’ll not call it “charity”, but “hospitality” to invite him over to my warm wood stove to roast squash seeds on that stove, with some squash soup and squash pie. And hopefully we’ll be able to laugh at the irony of me, an old coot who has no pension, providing for him, an old coot who has one. It is like the grasshopper providing for the ant.
Of course, neighbor will not get off Scot free. He will have to pay a price for my hospitality. Hopefully the cost will not be too much to bear: He will have to listen to me recite some of my poetry, going back sixty years.
Here’s a couple of sonnets from over forty years ago. (1979 or 1980). I think that, despite the fact I was in my twenties when I wrote them, they have aged well. They give me the strange sense that all our lives we’ve sensed the impending crisis. There was just nothing we could do to stop it. Whatever will be will be. My old sonnets are like mouse-squeaks of warning.
THE GRASSHOPPER SONNET
When I was young, I was told a fable
About a grasshopper and one good ant.
The good ant gathered grain for its table.
The grasshopper fiddled the following rant:
"Man can't live on bread alone; all need song,
Yes, all need song. Life, without its tune
Is wrong; yes, utterly hopelessly wrong,
That grasshopper came to ruin
Or at least that is what the fable states.
I guess that means next spring will be silent
Without the sweet chirping a grasshopper makes.
I guess that means all the ways that I went
Will lead me to death, while you'll never die.
Either that or else all the old fables can lie.
THE ANT SONNET
The poor ants work while the grasshoppers fiddle.
The ant looks up to the sky with trust.
The ant can't see God stands in the middle.
The ant is shocked by the first locust.
The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped.
The ant's outraged, and it seeks its peers.
Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped.
Soon the last locust disappears.
Thus there's no fiddling. Thus there's no grain.
Thus we have nothingness. Thus we're insane.
Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain.
Thus does humanity go down the drain.
Pray for ecology; then there's a chance
That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.
As a man who never married until he was certain he was too old for marriage, (age thirty-seven), I know the bliss of a joy deferred. So, I am happy for my eldest daughter, who is getting married this June. However, there are times it seems to me girls get too giddy about marriage.
In my own case I really didn’t see why marriage was anyone else’s business. I was planning on a quiet ceremony at some Justice-Of-The-Peace’s, but a wonderful old woman (who had been something of a matchmaker) would have none of that and vetoed my practicality. She insisted my future wife have all the frills of a bachelorette party, and a shower, and a big, church wedding.
Now thirty-two years later I’m going through the same process with my daughter. Once again, I am the drab, practical party-pooper. Of course, I’m a little older and wiser. I may still try to fight City Hall, but I don’t fight girls when they get giddy. Let them pick flowers if they insist; I will plant the beans.
At times I confess to feeling a little sorry for myself. After all, I see myself as a poet, and that is supposed to mean I get to be impractical: I am the grasshopper fiddling as the ants all toil. But somehow my study of Truth flipped things around, and rather than spending other people’s money I’m the one making the money others spend.
A wedding is a short celebration, compared to the non-stop party going on in the Swamp. They are spending money they didn’t make, though they think they can make money by printing it, but that makes inflation (which is a sneaky way of taking the value of my money and making it less without an official tax). This makes me feel even more sorry for myself.
The sheer stupidity of the Swamp’s behavior wears me down. While women get giddy about marriage, which is a very real thing, they deny marriage is a real thing, but insist Global Warming, which is not what they say it is, must be attended to.
His Fraudulency, Biden, while visiting Japan, actually was honest, and admitted the increase in fuel prices is not due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but was an intentional policy intended to make fossil fuels so expensive that we stop using them, and therefore, (theoretically) stop warming the world. But guess what? The world looks like it is cooling all by itself. The La Nina has come roaring back for a third straight year, chilling the Pacific.
And computer models are showing a cool June world-wide.
So basically, the Swamp is making fuel too expensive to use, in order to halt warming that isn’t happening. This deeply concerns me. I wasn’t going to have a garden this year, but now am worried shelves may be empty in the fall. So, I’m out toiling in my potato patch, even as all my help vanishes for a bachelorette party. Seems a good reason to tune up the violins of self-pity and be a poet.
Look what they've done to your poet, Lord.
I came with skipping glee, lacking the guile
They employed, innocently looking toward
My triumph, explaining with a bright smile
How all should honor my sparkling wit,
But they did not concur: "Who gave this brat
The right to rule? The loud fool does not fit
Our ugliness, and we must teach him that
The beauty that he sees is not allowed."
Why do they rule that You must not be seen?
Why be blind to silver in a cruising cloud?
You're so generous, while they are so mean.
I've been singing to the deaf, but now long
To return where men don't say right is wrong.
Where can one retreat to? I sort of like the simplicity of Psalm 123. One is just a child going to their Dad after enduring the contempt and ridicule of an arrogant bully. There is no belaboring justification, no analysis of whether one deserved to be bullied, no stressing of what one might have done better. One just brings a hurt heart, seeking healing.
Even after amazing victories it seems that King David, as a “man of the blood”, suffered some sort of Post-Traumatic Stress, and rather than victorious felt a need to retreat to a hiding place and basically adopt a fetal position and suck his thumb. All arrogance and egotism was put aside.
Lord, may I pay a visit? Hide in folds
Of fabric in the skirtings of Your throne?
Be hid in your brilliance? No despot holds
Power in such presence. No children groan
Bathed by such light, swaddled by fabric
So ornate. I need to find a safe retreat
For I have no excuse. I'm not sick
Nor poor, but suffer some strange defeat
I do not understand, and want to hide
Someplace safe and beyond all banal thought;
Someplace tucked in close to your warm side
Where David retreated after he'd fought
When his bones and heart ached. To You he turned
For You alone hold the peace we have spurned.
I have to confess there is healing in such retreat, even though I can roll my eyes at the “Safe Spaces” set up in colleges for the exceedingly tenderhearted, and the “mental health days” such tenderhearted people expect for the most commonplace trials. There is a difference between simpering retreat and King David’s retreat, revolving around how spattered by blood you are.
A sort of insult was added to injury, as I tottered about my potato patch, and the insult was a drought. The weather swung from bone-chilling east winds off the cold Atlantic to sweltering heat up from Georgia, and then back, and then forth, so it was seldom comfortable, yet I had to water my seedlings. When seeds first sprout and have a single root like a thread, a dry day can kill them. Usually, my complaint in New Hampshire springs is too much rain, and mud, and seeds rotting, but this year I’ve had to haul about kinking hoses and an old watering can. This gives me one more reason for violins, but I was very glad to see rain in our forecast after a long, hard workweek. The air had shifted back to muggy heat from Georgia, and the sunset was obscured by gray, so I trusted the forecast and skipped the final watering at sunset, muttering TGIF and heading home.
The next morning I awoke before the sun, and, looking outside, saw the driveway was still bone dry. It was warm enough to walk outside barefoot and feel the dust between my toes, yet so humid my hair was lank, but there was no mist and no heat lightning flashing from afar. I sighed and knew my weekend must start with watering, which was an extra chore on my list. But first I’d sip a coffee and attempt a sonnet:
Early summer heat sneaks into mild May
And the night strangely swelters without crickets.
Drought makes the frogs sparce. I want skies of gray
And raindrops, not crisp leaves in the thickets.
My seedlings yearn for drenching thunder-rain;
They feel my watering can is too meager.
The humid night only hears an upstairs fan
Drone electrically, when trees seem eager
For flashes of lightning drawing nearer.
All is awaiting relief, wet winds that croon
Rain's drumming; rainbows when skies get clearer,
Like India before the yearned monsoon,
Yet I am not only awaiting the rain.
A Savior is coming to heal our great pain.
Just as I finished the sonnet, I heard a wonderful noise outside. After a long winter of leafless trees, there is no sound quite so sweet as the first platting of raindrops in young leaves, growing as a sigh from a sweetened darkness before dawn, and surrounding you with mercy.
I called it “a sign” and crossed out “water seedlings” from my Saturday-list.
It was the wettest July I can remember. Fifty miles to our south, down in Worchester, Massachusetts, they actually set an all-time record for July rainfall. We were close, (though, two decades ago, the July ex-hurricane Bertha passed through and we got more on a single day). Also I recall a very rainy June, around ten years ago, when my deeper potatoes turned to slime, but I grew the most amazing spinach crop ever, with plants four feet tall.
Ordinarily I’d be fascinated by the extremes of New England weather, but the madness of the “Swamp” tends to spoil my enjoyment of life. My moods resemble a yoyo even in ordinary times, which is all well and good, as the agony and ecstasy are fuel for poetry (and I fancy myself a poet). But the infuriating behavior of politicians has made me a yoyo on steroids. Is there such a thing as a rocket-powered yoyo? That is what my moods have resembled.
My moods tend to bound between complete despair over the idiotic shenanigans of the moronic elite down in the “Swamp”, and a strange, joyous certainty God has them hooked, and is about to land them like flapping flounders.
In any case, my garden has suffered a certain amount of neglect. Partly this is because I recognized my skills have slowed, and planted the rows farther apart so I could use the rototiller rather than a hoe. However the rains turned the soil to a mire. If you stepped into the garden you sank in mud above your ankle. Obviously using the rototiller was impossible, so I desperately sank to my knees to weed by hand, but even that was ridiculous. Ordinarily you shake the soil from the roots of weeds, which causes them to perish swiftly, but this past July the roots were like a hippie’s wet hair, and rather than shaking dirt free you just whipped mud all over the place, and to add insult to injury, the weeds didn’t die. You merely transplanted them, for they re-rooted where you lay them.
Not that such excuses make a whit of difference, if you actually depend on your soil for food. However I (hopefully correctly) determined that famine will not stalk our land in 2021, but rather in 2022. Already I am planning for next year, and abandoning parts of this year’s garden to the weeds. (It is called “letting land lie fallow”, if you need an excuse). In the present one can still go to the grocery and buy bags of rice and bags of beans, plus boxes of pasta and jars of pasta sause, (and I would highly recommend people do so, though some may call it “hoarding”.) In 2022 those shelves may be empty, and excuses don’t make a good lunch.
Another excuse for not weeding was a crop we raise called “grandchildren.” It is very rough on us decrepit elders when they insist upon being born far away. On July 4th I had twin granddaughters born prematurely in Portland, Maine. The NICU up there is not in easy reach of weeds in my garden.
Meanwhile another daughter-in-law is on the verge of birth in NYC, with all its nonsense. NYC is not in easy reach of weeds in my garden, either. But I went there, and studied the people midst the coronavirus illogic. Meanwhile the weeds flourished in the drenching rains.
In some ways I was living like we are a free people in a free land, driving to Portland Maine and NYC and never wearing a mask, but I was nervous how long it would be allowed. Not that I need a mask or the vaccine. I have God’s vaccine, for I have had the virus.
At this point I should be blunt, and state that local people have seen examples of the vaccine killing people. One example was a sixty-year-old woman who was scared to death of the virus and stayed home for months, wearing a mask even at home, and who was eager to take the vaccine so she could leave home, but who promptly died. Another case was a healthy young man who played basketball at the local courts and who got very sick when he got the first dose of the vaccine, but recovered and took the second dose, and died. Such incidents do not make the network news, but local people know the local people who died. And in my case I had a long-distance friend, Robert Felix, (who ran the “Ice Age Now” site), and was shocked when he died within weeks of having the vaccine. His rheumatoid arthritis, which was under control, went out of control, and he was in a wheelchair within days, and died in a few weeks. In any case, there is reason to fear the vaccine more than the virus, especially as local people over ninety years old have had the virus and recovered with symptoms not much worse than a cold’s.
The distrust towards the government is at a level I have never seen before. At a local hospital five nurses quit rather than be forced to take the vaccine. I have heard things which ordinarily would strike me as conspiracy-theory and paranoia, from doctors and nurses who are not ordinarily inclined towards hysteria, and usually strike me as a bit too down to earth (because they are uninterested in poetry.) I have heard you can tell from a person’s red blood cells whether they have taken the vaccine, as the cells are “not normal”. Why expose children to such experimental dangers, when children seldom even develop symptoms from the virus, and seem perfectly able to develop antibodies on their own? Then there is an actual video of Bill Gates stating over-population is a problem which a vaccine might “cure.” How can ordinary people trust such a man? I heard the distrust expressed like this: “Why should a government which condones the abortion of millions of babies be trusted with the lives of millions of children?”
I suppose to even report that such distrust exists could get me cancelled by “cancel-culture”, but I simply report what I see. It is upsetting to see Freedom of Speech under attack.
All I can do is act within my corner of the world. Speaking only for myself, I will refuse the vaccine, and see what happens. And to express myself, I’ll write my sonnets, untroubled if they are canceled, and snickering because someone will have to read them in order to cancel them.
I have done all I can. That is enough.
I will not waste my time with bemoaning.
I plant the seeds, and then luck can be tough
With cutworms and crows; my telephoning
God about frosts and floods is my first and last
Resort. What else (besides work) can I do?
I look up and half the summer has passed
And, though defeated, I feel my virtue
Is good enough. God can't ask for more.
Even in ruins I find serenity.
My body is grounded, but my spirits soar.
Life as it is is good enough for me.
Our Creator is great, an this much I know:
I may plant the seeds but I don't make them grow.
Once again I am losing my war with weeds.
Where other men can sit and watch corn grow
I know woe. Where a wise man concedes
He's getting old, I do not seem to know
How to age gracefully, and, full of fight,
Take on foes that might make a young man blanche.
Mouse fights lion; raging Dylan's dying light,
I still want to wrench small plots to a ranch.
I claim that I can, though I know I can't.
Wee flea gets tough with big elephant.
Old farmer gets mugged by the seeds he'll plant.
I rush, but eleven steps makes me pant.
I'm determined to prove my life's not complete
Until punctuated by my final defeat.
If I were Augustus, I would not want
This month named for me. Everything begs
For long days to linger, but dawns taunt
By cracking later, and sunsets cut the legs
From twilight. Too late to plant; too early
To harvest; a time even the dawn-song
Of a robin taints a morning's pearly
Sky with rue, for, (though it may well be wrong
To think this way), before August is done
Robins flee south. Dawns become fearful.
Is this song their last? Fret foils August's fun.
As songs depart daybreaks will grow tearful
Unless you lift eyes from the shade up the trees
To see golden rays in the high canopies.
Uplift us, O Lord, from mire we're bogged in.
We've made ourselves strangers in our own homes.
Nothing feels right. Our sorrows are maudlin.
Our songs are all flat. Our affection roams
Seeking what is missing, and that is You.
You should be the reason church bells ring
But they clank. You are the salt; it is through
Your grace life makes sense, but the flavoring
Is absent, and the guff that men pursue
Is hollow-hearted. Yet with just a glance
You could make people dance; make dull skies blue
And dull days rich. Please give us a chance
For without You the mire only gets deeper
And climbing out just gets steeper and steeper.
They are fools. Fools! A world full of fools
All rushing to board a swift-sinking ship.
Like housewives at a sale, nobody cools
The madness; they push and shove; gripe and grip
Straws breaking camel's backs as they pass through
The eye of a needle hid in haystacks.
The madly mixed metaphor they pursue
Makes them look like a dog which attacks
Its own tail. In circles they're not sure who
Is last and who is coming in first
But they shove aside kindness, kick the true
In their rush to sate insatiable thirst,
Yet all this greed, lust and hate they promote
Is sure to fall flat when God clears His throat.
Psalm 73 v 18-20:
"Surely you place them on slippery ground:
You cast them down in ruin.
How suddenly they are destroyed,
Completely swept away by terrors!
As a dream when one awakes
So when you arise, O Lord,
You will despise them as fantasies."
As a poet, I have air-headed tendencies, which I have to rein in, in order to function in a responsible manner. I have to be down to earth, though earth can be a dreary place, and even be ungodly, when people assume being down-to-earth is all there is. It isn’t, which is why there is a need for poetry.
Dreary, down-to-earth, pragmatic people need to be reminded from time to time that there are such things as angels. We get plenty of reminders that we need to be more pragmatic. Life is good at that. Sometimes our less good attributes rise up as an evil so frightening we must descend to the crudity of war, where living is reduced to such a life-and-death level that lofty thoughts seem pointless, but even amidst crude violence people need to be reminded to think of God and his servants. (In fact, when it is least practical to muse of otherworldly things, people may be especially prone to do so.)
Evil people tend to curse the otherworldly, perhaps feeling it has failed them and therefore doesn’t exist, and that high thoughts are mere mush and slop, as childish as believing in Santa Claus, so they discount angels. Angels don’t vote, so politicians can ignore them, up and until it occurs to politicians that angels, even as a fairy tale, have power. Angels possess the power of poetry. While the word “poetry” is of little interest to perverted, power-mad money-grubbers, (beyond doggerel that might sell some cereal to rot children’s teeth with), the word “power” brings their Cadillac’s screeching to a stop. “What’s that? What’s that you say? Did you say ‘power’”? All of a sudden, politicians want to know about a world they basically believe is make-believe. However, because they don’t believe, they get it all wrong. They are like transvestites; no matter how perfectly they put on the make-up and pad their bodies and act the act, it is an act. It is make-believe and not the real thing.
What, then, it the real thing? Perhaps I should capitalize it: “the Real Thing.” Basically, it is what we are born for. However, when we come down to earth, something about being down-to-earth turns into thinking that being down-to-earth is the Real Thing. It isn’t.
I think everyone knows this on some level, but some are corrupted to a degree where, even when they believe in things beyond the down-to-earth, they somehow manage to corrupt the out-of-this-world with their perverted, power-mad money-grubbing. They don’t seek caring witch doctors who heal with kindly herbs, but prefer quacks given to hallucinogenic mushrooms and sexual stimulants; even back two-and-three-quarters millenniums ago the paranoid, power-mad King Saul sought out the Witch of Endor.
There is something creepy about the other-worldly souls one contacts via OUIGA boards, and people who get hooked by such seeking tend to become creeps. However it seems to be a phase some of us must pass through: Speaking only for myself, before I could believe in God I needed to first believe in ghosts; it was helpful to be persuaded such weirdness might exist, but also a big mistake. You shouldn’t believe in ghosts because ghosts lie. God, on the other hand, is Truth at Its purest and most beautiful.
Over the decades I’ve learned that in order to function in a responsible manner I need to make money, and I currently do so by running a Childcare. The youngest children are two or three years old, and give me ample opportunity to study the process of souls coming down to earth. The children really make me think. For example, if they are not fully down to earth yet, where are they?
To a certain degree they are still in heaven. This is especially true of children from happy homes, but even the unfortunate, traumatized children of drug-addicted parents are otherworldly. They are pleasantly mad, and optimistic, because they haven’t forgotten what we are born for. The Real Thing is still very real to them. Even if they have never heard the Lord’s Prayer, they seem to intuitively grasp the part about makings things “on earth, as they are in heaven.” This goal isn’t easy to achieve, which is why small children cry so much, but they haven’t forgotten the basic reason for being alive.
There are some who dislike the idea of anything so impractical as heaven invading our world. Many of these people do not see themselves as being the slightest bit ungodly. They see themselves as pragmatic. They believe they have common sense. And they furthermore believe children need to be whipped into shape. Children require some sort of indoctrination, some sort of brainwashing, to make them contribute to society in an acceptable manner, as cogs that fit “the machine”.
As a poet, I distain the entire concept of society as a machine, and people as cogs. In my view it is a disgusting idea from all angles, whether you are right wing or left wing. It degrades the value of individuals, who are beautiful in God’s eyes irrespective of what they “contribute”. One biblical hero was a thief being crucified on the cross next to Jesus. He contributed zilch to society, and in fact he stole. That was why society felt it was pragmatic to be rid of him. But was he banned from heaven? Apparently not, (but the fat bureaucrat who had the thief crucified may not have been so lucky).
In like manner a very small child contributes zilch to society, in the eyes of morons who can’t see how beautiful they are. They are small and cute thieves. They steal your heart. They make no sense economically until around age five, when they can be whipped into shape and do simple chores. Up until that point they are welfare recipients with an attitude of entitlement, or perhaps candidates for eugenics, or examples of overpopulation, or any number of other degrading ways of seeing small fellow men and women. I beg to differ. I hold a different view. A poetic view.
Not that I find it easy to live up to my own standards. This world has a pernicious way of forcing even idealists to be down-to-earth and pragmatic. I own a certain element of shame for even operating a Childcare. Sixty years ago, when I was young, a woman would have felt ashamed to have to work rather than to rule her household, whether she was wealthy and ruled a staff of servents, or poor and ruled a saucepan. For a mother to hand a child younger than six to another, for anything other than a brief period of baby-sitting, would have been a cause for deep, painful chagrin. So I am, in effect, profiteering off modern mother’s misfortune, a vulture on the carcass of happy homes. But I spread my palms. What can I do? It is the way things are.
(My wife and I have had talks with young mothers, distraught about leaving their wailing child in our care, where we have pointed out the young mother’s wages didn’t cover the cost of the Childcare, the car, the gasoline, the car insurance, and the spiffy clothing necessary for the job. We actually try to talk young mothers out of using our services. But the prospect of social isolation, home alone, is too daunting. The mother needs the job’s society more than she needs the paycheck.)
This world drags me down to such a degree that poetry feels impossible. I am like a little child, being whipped into shape. Left to my own devises, I slump into pragmatic functionality, and my heart feels squeezed. I need help from On High. It is time to pray fervently, or to do some zealous yoga.
Prayer and yoga is hard to do once pragmatism has a hold of you. Personally, I have never been very good at it. It never seems to make sense to get down on your knees and do nothing, or sit cross-legged and do nothing, when you should get off your butt and bust your butt. However, despair drives you to odd behavior. I confess I sometimes do confess my incapacity to God, and plead for help. Sometimes nothing seems to come of it. I then get up and hurry off to be pragmatic, but I always wonder if I should have persisted, and done nothing longer. And I must confess that, perhaps twice or thrice in my long life, my despair was so great I did persist, and then did seem to get visible help from On High.
But more often I persist in a different way, and the help from On High seems to be accidental. In such cases I persist at some physical activity past the norm. Perhaps this is why people climb Mount Everest. In pushing themselves past a certain limit they are like a person sitting cross legged doing Yoga past a certain limit. Walls in our minds, often walls we ourselves built with our own pragmatism, are peeked past, are peered over-the-tops-of, (even if they don’t actually fall down). And then we see as we usually don’t, (which we tend to call “a vision”.)
One such situation arose because as a teenager I was “the crew” of a 28-foot sailboat which had an engine that didn’t work and a self-sailor which sailed the boat in circles, and this required someone to sit and steer the tiller at all times. As the captain was busy elsewhere, holding the tiller was up to the “crew”, which was me.
To sit and hold a tiller may sound like a romantic and wonderful job, but we were on a haul around Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout and Cape Fear, and it took three days with the winds the way they were. The captain did give me some breaks, but most of the time I just sat and held a tiller. It got old. It got old halfway through the first day. The second day I was wracked by desires to go to MacDonald’s for a hamburger, to zone out watching a TV, to look at the weather maps in a New York Times, to do anything but hold the damn tiller of a damn boat. But that was my Yoga, and there was no escape (besides screaming and jumping overboard.) And under that duress I started to see angels in the clouds.
Most everyone at some point has seen a cloud that resembled something or another. On this occasion the clouds started out that way, but the faces and people became more and more numerous and commonplace and vivid, until the entire sky was full of portraits. By the third day it was ridiculous. The sky was one big mural. I’d look away, and then glance upward, and it took no imagination to see the masterpieces. They were the hues of Rembrandt’s work, by the late afternoon, and as gorgeous as his paintings. One I remember in particular, (as I was very hungry at the time), was a fat woman bringing a roast turkey to a table, a big smile on her face, and something beatific about her posture.
Now I look up, and the clouds are just clouds. I have to work to see a cloud come close to looking like a face. When no one is around, I ask the sky, “Couldn’t you do it again, just a little, just once?” But I guess you have to hold a tiller three days, to see such majesty. If you don’t do the yoga, don’t expect the samadhi.
Actually, one good thing about my current life is that I usually manage to avoid such situations. Pragmatism has paid off, and I seldom have to round Cape Hatteras the lone crew at the tiller of a malfunctioning boat with a malfunctioning captain. (Although being a citizen under the rule of Fraudulent Biden does give me a sense of Deja Vu). However, pragmatism has its penalty, in that the skies are not so amazing.
Yet this spring I have managed to bite off more than I can chew, as I always seem to do as days lengthen, in at least one area of my life. Usually it involves my vegetable garden. It is too big for an old geezer like me, but I have refused to age gracefully. I should turn 90% of the garden into a lawn, and have a little sissy garden, but some stubborn side of me has me out pottering away under the hot sun, hour after hour. It has been somewhat humiliating, as it takes so much longer to do simple jobs, but I have pushed myself and, hoping I might be a tortoise who beats the hare, I’ve kept working. And as I worked, and worked, and worked, I noticed, to my delight, the clouds were starting to change. The tedium of toil was becoming a sort of yoga, and I was being uplifted into a sort of heaven on earth.
Mind you, I didn’t sit and do nothing. Nor did I sit and do nothing, all those years ago, as I held the tiller of a sailboat during a long haul. You have to pay attention on a boat, or the sails start to flap, if you man a tiller, and in like manner you have to keep doing your pottering in a garden, or the weeds will win. But if you persist and do your job all of a sudden the world may become enchanted, even as you’re down-to-earth.
I was so struck by the enchantment that appeared as I pottered that I, being a writer, immediately pondered how I might share it to you, the reader. Sadly, it can’t be described to those who haven’t experienced it. It is like describing color to the color blind. The best I can do is compare it to some similar experience you might have experienced, perhaps assuming you have resorted to some socially inappropriate behavior in the mists of your past.
For example, one time as a teenager I purchased some pills in London with a pal and retreated to a nice country flower garden and ate them, and then we sat back expecting our minds to produce an animated Disney cartoon of some sort. The pills had tasted a lot like malted milk tablets, and around an hour later we decided they actually were malted milk tablets, and the salesman had made a fine profit by selling single malted milk tablets for six silver shillings apiece. Being young, we got a good laugh out of being such chumps and suckers, rather than becoming bitter and vengeful, and we then employed some whisky we liberated surreptitiously from my stepfather’s cupboard to produce more modest cartoons in our minds. But the point of my story is that we were able to identify the pills as fake by the enchantment which did not occur.
The negative aspect of enchantment caused by drugs is that it is not earned, and rather is brutally induced by a sort of maiming of the brain. Therefore it has a harsh quality more natural prayer and yoga does not have. Because it is unnaturally induced it has unnatural consequences which reverberate in life after the “trip”, but I don’t want to talk about that. I only bring up drugs because many of my generation were foolish when young. Despite the amnesia drugs induce, many have a vague recollection of how things went from normal to “high”. Natural enchantment occurs in much the same manner, but, because it is natural, it is possessed of a wholesomeness utterly unlike drugs, and also unlike the creepy quality of QUIGI boards. One suddenly becomes aware of what a gift life is. Like a little child, one sees the Real Thing.
The sense of beauty the Real Thing imparts is overpowering, which is likely why powerful people covet It, though they cannot grasp It. The sense of beauty involves a peculiar confidence and assuredness. It sounds silly to say, “Everything is going to be all right” when the world seems determined to go to hell in a hack, but when you see the Real Thing, worry limps away defeated.
As I pottered about, at around at a quarter mile an hour, pausing to lean on my shovel and huff and puff, I wondered if I might be killing myself with my foolish garden, and might be suffering delusions at death’s door. I’ve always said I wanted to die with my boots on; perhaps I was succeeding at that. Perhaps I was hallucinating, and about to collapse. However, I felt too healthy; too restored. In fact, I hadn’t felt so wholesome and healed in months. Apparently, heaven would have to wait a while longer for this old codger.
After a while my mind drifted to working on a sonnet, as well as the soil, because I wanted to share with you how wonderful we should feel, if we could remove the scales from our eyes. I looked around for details in the enchanted landscape I could use. What made everything so different; so ecstatic?
One thing I noticed was a big old crow, who lurks around the farm. There are several species in my area, and crows all look pretty much the same to me, but particular bird is so big that I suspect it is a raven. He or she is always alone, so I think it lost its mate. In any case, as I pottered, I noticed the raven kept bopping by, sometimes flying high overhead, sometimes hopping on a stone wall to the north, or pacing about at the far edge of a pasture to the south, or on a dead limb of an oak to the west, or on an electric line by the road to the east. Unlike smaller crows, he was silent, and often seemed to be watching me, leaning forward with his hands behind his back. I imagined he was muttering, “You still here? Don’t you think you should go indoors and write a poem?” But I kept up with my pottering, until the raven seemed to become disgusted and impatient, and simply flew down to the far end of the garden to strut around doing whatever it is ravens do, before I have planted my corn. The big black bird gave me the sense I was accepted, as part of the scenery, the same way my goats are accepted by that same crow. Then, as I glanced around, I saw other creatures were accepting me as part of the scenery. A brash chickadee pecked at a fencepost barely ten feet away. A chipmunk on a rock was far more interested in alerting the world to the fact a fox was trotting along the shaded far edge of the pasture, than in warning the world an old man feebly hoed close by. And the fox was more interested in fomenting a surprise attack on rats in the barn than in me. I was part of the landscape. And I really liked the sensation. It was very different from how I usually feel, which is to feel like every creature in creation is out to get my garden, and that a farmer is making a desperate last stand like Davey Crockett at the Alamo. Instead, I felt like a character in the old Uncle Remus tales I read to children at my Childcare. Along with Brer Fox and Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit, there was me, Brer Farmer. In the landscape of enchantment, we are not against each other, but with each other, (even when we eat each other).
Sorry, but that’s the best I can do, at this point, and surely my description fails to adequately describe the overpowering enchantment of the Real Thing to the uninitiated. But I will say this: There are powers about, which politicians woefully underestimate.
In “Lord of The Rings”, the wizard Saruman underestimated a tree’s ability to fight back, as he clear-cut beautiful groves to fuel the engines of his war of domination. Saruman’s plotting forgot to enter Ents into his calculations. He thought he had everything covered, but neglected to consider the Ents.
Ents may be fiction, but are perhaps Tolkien’s most brilliant creation, for those walking-trees are a perfect symbol of what the pragmatic lose sight of, when they become too down-to-earth. In like manner the perverted, power-mad money-grubbers in Washington D.C. forget they are stewards of a land like farmers are stewards of a land, and instead underestimate the land’s ability to fight back with powers given by enchantment. Most especially, they have forgotten the Real Thing, and that there are such things as angels.
I don't have a garden gate. Instead
I have a time warp. You will walk into
A different dimension. I've not the head
For the math, but I know this much is true:
If you're led down my garden path you'll see
Things that don't add up, and yet they all seem
Strangely true: The way you thought when three
When life was a wonder and you waltzed a dream.
Angels walked with you. Zephyrs and Dryads
Aren't allowed in science books. Their vote
Is not courted by politician's ads.
But they are there, not at all remote.
If you come work in my garden with me
You'll learn o a power the devils can't see.
Our skies were smoky due to fires out west, and the high haze had none of the beauty of high clouds. There were no high sky rainbows, no sun-dogs or halos. It was just a gray smudge that robbed sunlight of its vividness. I found it depressing. It seemed symbolic of the political gloom robbing our nation of its beauty.
What is beautiful about the United States? I think it is that we are all equal; a poor man has the same single vote as a billionaire, in theory at least. In theory we respect differing views, which involves the quality of our character and not the color of our skin. We love our neighbors and even our enemies, which allows conservatives and liberals to co-exist, and supreme court justices as opposed as Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to develop deep friendships. This can only occur when there is a sense that we are all looking at a single Truth, albeit from differing angles. We are one people and one nation “indivisible”. United we stand; divided we fall.
What seems so gloomy about the current political situation in the United States is that we are seemingly being successfully divided by those who dislike our foundational ideas, (basically an utopian hypothesis), as laid out by our Founding Fathers. This attack utilizes the ancient concept of “divide and conquer” seen as far back as the Assyrian conquest of Babylonia, and verbalized by Julius Caesar, and codified in its most insidious form in the writings of Karl Marx. In essence our ideals, based on unity, are facing ideals based on division.
One thing I have noticed among the “politically correct” is that they have a hard time hearing differences of opinion. They like to use the word “polarizing”, as if you are attacking unity by simply pointing out things look differently from a different angle. In effect they at times use a mere slight as “grounds for divorce.” One needs to walk on eggs when bringing up even the slightest disagreement, and at some point one starts to wonder who is the divisive one. Is it the one supplying the “grounds for divorce”, or is it the one ignoring the marriage vow to stick together “for better or worse”? Such wondering results in confusion and skies of gray. We are confronted by a divided reality that challenges our pledge to be “Indivisible.” When faced with the discouraging frailty of humanity, I try to look above the gray sky and to turn to the only One worthy of trust.
You alone can cleanse our befouled heavens For You alone are perfect purity. No rot rots; no rust rusts; no yeast leavens; No shade shades; nothing tops Infinity. We roll snake eyes; You roll sevens, so we Turn to You each time we make a great mess Because You alone have eyes able to see Our way out. To be honest, I confess We make You the whole wide world’s janitor. (Hell of a way to treat the Almighty!) We are feeble; to make us be fitter Perhaps You drill us, school us, make us see We wouldn’t be losers, and might be winning If we obeyed You from the beginning.
A rather cool coincidence occurred just after I wrote the above sonnet. A blast of clean Canadian air came south and swept the smoke from our skies.
To be honest, satellite imagery showed the entire west was still smoky, and the smoke in the east was only driven south to North Carolina. Also the air that came south was bitterly cold and held a killing frost weeks before we usually get one. The wind was a scouring wind, wiping out my vegetable garden. However, to continue being honest, I didn’t care about cucumbers as much as I was glad the sky was clean. Sometimes a scouring is worth it.
The fumes of Mordor are swept from high sky By a great blast of Canadian chill, Bringing the first cruel frost, but I won’t cry Though tomatoes die and icy spears kill My cantaloupes. I’m done with gardening And tire of weeding. I need a long break From everyone needing my pardoning. Just what sort of harvest is it to ache Every day, rolling pumpkins punks will smash? What sort of gratitude is it to gain Sisyphus’s heights? Thirty bits of cash Is poor pay, but such slim harvests of grain Is all punks get paid for betraying Christ. Fresh breeze is better, as I see things sliced.
For years I have had a Survivalist tendency, which regularly embarrasses me. There are few things more humbling than to predict the end of the world, and have the world keep right on going.
To be blunt, I just don’t see how the world does it. I try to be generous, and see the good side of people, but the fact of the matter is that people aren’t perfect, and when push comes to shove all people, (including myself), can have their imperfections make them be fools. When I was young I felt the grown-ups were fools, and when older I felt my peers were fools, and now that I at long last have grown gray, I deem young whippersnappers fools. During elections I feel I’m voting for the lesser of two foolishnesses. Fools always are running the show, and it seems no good could possibly come of it, but the show goes on.
It occurs to me that there is no possible way such fools could be responsible for the fact humanity hasn’t destroyed itself, and therefore someone else must be running the show.
And No, the “someone else” isn’t big-shot fools with piles of money who think they can avoid public scrutiny by pulling strings behind-the-scenes. Why not? Because such blowhards are more blatant than they think; they think others are fools and they are wise, but even fools see through their craft; they are transparent to even the slow-witted, given time; their duplicity catches up with them, which has given rise to statement’s such as Sir Walter Scott’s,
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”
And Abraham Lincoln’s,
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
In other words, the people who may think they are “running the show” are perhaps the greatest of fools. They think they are “in control” but in the end they discover they are not, which proves they are fools.
The Assyrian king Sennacherib was certain he was “in control” when he marched on Jerusalem with perhaps 185,000 troops, but for some reason Jerusalem is the one city he never captured. Sennacherib didn’t like to admit there was anything he didn’t control, and later he bragged he had caged the king of Jerusalem like a bird.
Of course the Jew’s had a different version. As Isaiah tells the tale, Sennacherib got too cocky, and said no city’s gods had been able to save any city’s citizens from his armies, and Jerusalem’s god Yahweh was no different, whereupon Yahweh killed his army in their sleep overnight, sending Sennacherib home like a dog with his tail between its legs, where he was later assassinated by his own son.
Many secular people dislike giving God any glory, and seek scientific explanations. They pooh-pooh the idea of some hocus-pocus bringing an authority “in control” to a screeching halt, and search for a scientific explanation. One idea is that the king of Jerusalem, Hezekiah, had diverted all the clean water through tunnels into Jerusalem, and the Assyrians were forced to drink dirty water and contracted Cholera.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judea remained an island of independence midst the vastness of the Assyrian Empire (and, in the end, Sennacherib indeed was murdered by his own son). So history demonstrates we are not the first people who have seen our confident plans derailed by some invisible germ. Nor does such derailing need a germ like the Corona Virus; (a tsunami will do, if you are the king of Atlantis).
The 1954 Polio Epidemic was the invisible germ which derailed my father’s confident expectations. He was a surgeon who had developed his dexterity to an amazing, almost ridiculous, degree. When he stitched a severed artery together he sewed twenty tiny stitches, tying each knot with one hand. It’s a pity there is no film of his fingers at work. It’s also a pity some mindless germ could come along and paralyze such fingers.
Events like that tend to test our faith. We lose faith in ourselves when we see we are weak, and we lose faith in the world when the world hits us with cruel fate. So what is left to have faith in?
It is at this point there is a great divide. Some say there is nothing but the world to have faith in, and some say there is an Other-worldly Creator.
Those given to worldly desires are prone to slipping into a might-makes-right mentality, a survival-of-the-fittest which sees brutality as acceptable, as it gets you what you want, whereas kindness gets you nothing but kicked, and is seen as weakness. This brutality becomes a test of faith in and of itself, as the brutal mock those who differ, and torture those who believe in a loving Creator, in a sense attempting prove creation isn’t loving, with hate.
It must have been a bit disconcerting to the might-makes-right mentality when they threw St. Euphemia to the lions, and rather than mauling her the lions tended to her wounds, however, because eventually she did die, as far as might-makes-right was concerned they had proven their point. They saw no angels nor “other side”, and death was a finality to them, and in a sense was what they were (and are) ruled by, and what they have faith in. In the long run they may be wrong, but they see things in terms of the short term.
One has to admit that it is a bit of a drag to have to die to see there is something other than might-makes-right, which is worthy of faith. One prefers to see evidence without needing to be a martyr. I suppose that is why we like movies where the good guys win. And the poet-king David did assert that if you live long enough, and can survive a great deal of betrayal and hardship, you will see the Creator’s kindness this side of heaven. In Psalm 31 he sings,
…The wicked plot against the righteous And gnash their teeth at them; But the Lord laughs at the wicked For he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword And bend the bow To bring down the poor and needy, To slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, And their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have Than the wealth of many wicked…
And later in the same psalm David reassures,
…I was young and now am old Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken Or their children begging bread. They are generous and lend freely, Their children will be blessed…
This seems an extraordinary thing for David to assert, considering he went through the agony of seeing his son Absalom attempt to usurp his throne in much the same manner that Sennacherib’s son attempted. David definitely paid his dues to sing his blues. The testing of one’s faith is no child’s play, but once one is “tried and true” there seems to be a powerful assurance given to one that a Loving Creator watches over them; an assurance which appears to be nonsense to believers in might-makes-right.
In the eyes of might-makes-right any faith in a Loving Creator is a sort of con artistry. They roll their eyes when they see a priest waving belching incense-holders and speaking Latin, impressing the ignorant with their mambo-jumbo. In fact priests raising communion crackers, and stating “Hoc Est Corpus”, may be the derivation of “Hocus Pocus”, which in turn may be the derivation of “Hoax.” In the eyes of might-makes-right, religion seems purely an act, to trick suckers with.
Such sophist cynics feel the common man is ignorant and superstitious, nothing but “Deplorables” and “Useful Idiots” and “Bitter Clingers”, mere fools who are easily swayed by glitter and stampeded by fear, which may be why they create their own hoaxes involving Global Warming and the Global Pandemic. However the people see through such hoaxes, given time, and the creators of the hoaxes then become desperate, and make their hoax a sort of requirement, a false god such as the politically-correct worship of Aries which St. Euphima was martyred for not kowtowing to. Some things never seem to change. The politically-correct of our times become equally furious at those who do not kowtow to their modern politically-correct hoaxes. They feel they have the might and it gives them the right. However they are not truly the ones “in control”, though they may think they are.
A hoax cannot exist independently; it depends upon a Real Thing it is pretending to be. In some ways it is a copy, an imitation, and even a flattery of the Real Thing, up to and until the moment it attempts to replace the Real Thing. From that moment on it suffers in comparison, and people cannot be stopped from comparing.
This brings me back to where I started, looking around myself and seeing the lunatics are running the asylum. It has looked that way to me for decades. Of course, I am a fool to be calling everyone else a fool. But at least I’m not pretending I’m in control. I acknowledge that, though I may be creative, I am not the Creator. I feel I am walking about in the pages of a magnificent epic written by an Author who was there before page one, and will be there after the last page. If anyone is “in control”, it is the Author who wrote the plot.
Lastly, I feel this Author is compassionate. The point of his epic is not that “might makes right”, but rather the point is a beautiful mystery called “Love”. Also, because the Author sees ahead, death has not the sting to Him it has to us who live in the moment. We live in this world, and are horrified by the fact six million Jews were led into gas chambers. The Author is less horrified because he sees six million Jews walking out on the other side.
Even so, one wonders what is so compassionate about allowing a might-makes-right madman to kill six million, and the answer seems to be that the Author feels freedom is a beautiful thing. He allows fools to be foolish, (up to a point). He wants the characters in his epic to figure things out for themselves, and this involves “free will”. If He wants absolute obedience he has his angels. However we mere mortals are apparently made to be more than robots to God’s majestic will (which is what His beautiful angels are), and this involves the freedom to disobey. Because we are fools, our freedom blunders into various forms of addiction and slavery, and bogs us down in the evil tendencies of might-makes-right, including even mass murder, until our foolishness finally wises us up, and we come to understand true freedom involves love, respecting the dignity of all, caring for the unfortunate and freeing others from all forms of slavery, until at long last we figure out that true freedom is obeying God’s majestic will, like the angels do, only we don’t do it like robots; rather we freely do it because we’ve learned to want it, as it merges us with the absolute freedom and independence of the Author, and we perhaps even cease our wandering in the pages of His creation’s plot, and vanish outside the epic’s covers.
I’ll flatter myself by stating the ideas in the above paragraph are somewhat profound, but I know from years of experience they are sheer foolishness to the politically-correct might-makes-right crowd. To them it is just another one of my lame poems. I’ve wasted years intimating to the overbearing, attempting to hint control may be in Hands more capable than theirs, and I am all too familiar with the jeering push-back of the politically-correct. And this again brings me back to where I began, which is my perception that those who think they are “in control” are fools.
While I am no prophetic historian-poet like Isaiah, I can relate to what he describes in the sixth chapter of his book. Eager to bring God’s message to his people, he learns God’s message to his people is basically, “You are too deaf to hear the message.” Then, when Isaiah wants to know when the people of Israel will stop being so deaf, he learns it will only be after the land has been reduced to a wasteland.
I thought about this event, which occurred roughly 2750 years ago, when I walked into the market around two months ago and saw there was abruptly no toilet paper. There was really no reason for such a shortage in a land as wealthy as the United States, but the corona-virus-panic was making people behave like fools. I confess I felt a certain nervousness, for I wondered, like Isaiah, how long my homeland would persist with such foolishness. I wondered if my homeland might even become a wasteland.
I’ve been wondering that for a half century. That is how long it has been since I felt the general public moved from sanity to foolishness. Back in 1969 a sort of revival occurred, which some called “The Summer Of Love,” and it seemed people briefly saw how beautiful life might be, and behaved as if such a sanity was already here. I felt a very real hope at that time, but since then my faith has been tested by foolishness after foolishness.
What did I see back then? Well, people spoke of “Truth, Love and Understanding”, and it wasn’t insincerely. People really seemed to believe it, and what’s more to live it, albeit briefly. Only later did hypocrisy set in with a vengeance. “Truth, Love and Understanding” were cheapened.
Not that “Truth, Love and Understanding” are any less beautiful, but they also can be mere words, words which have been used by people to sell breakfast cereal, or to seduce another person’s spouse, or to gain votes, until the true meaning of the words have been adulterated by low lusts and greedy desires and blind hate, to a point where they have lost their real meaning, as words. They have shrunken to hoaxes, pretending to be The Real.
That which is beneficial to the human spirit has been dirtied by the corrupt. To deprive the human spirit in such a manner is a prescription for a poverty worse than physical poverty (which can be a blessing), for it is a spiritual poverty, and can even be a worship of death and a hatred of life and of life’s true “Truth, Love and Understanding.” Such changing-of-the-meaning-of-words is called, “perversion.”
To “pervert” is, “to cause to turn away from what is right, proper, or good”. But what is it that causes people to turn away? Many weaknesses, but largely it is fear of losing stuff, or losing the position which enables one to get stuff. With the fear comes a sort of blindness, the mindless behavior seen when shoppers get out of hand at a department store’s sale, and fight each other over flimsy garments ( or the infamous “Cabbage Patch Dolls”), which they don’t really need. Dignity is disheveled into frothing foolishness which cares more for worldly rubbish than the One who made this world possible. And they call this behavior, “political correctness.”
No good can come from such nonsense, which is why I’ve been confidently predicting the end of the world any day now, for fifty years. It is a good thing I never became rich, for if had I the money I would have built a bunker in the hills, and only come out once a year like the ground-hog to be spooked by my shadow. It is also a good thing I’m not an Old Testament prophet like Isaiah, for the punishment for false prophesy back then was to be led to the edge of town and stoned to death. By now I’d have been stoned to death around fifty times. The only ones worse at forecasting the future have been the weathermen.
Coincidentally “Weathermen” was the name we used for a radical group during my youth, a fringe of the leftist SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) officially named “The Weather Underground”. Disgusted with the world’s foolishness, especially the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, they decided the appropriate response was to blow up the “establishment” with bombs. The only people they managed to kill were themselves, when a bomb they were constructing blew up, but their activity did make people uneasy, especially if you happened to live next door to the bomb factory, like the young actor Dustin Hoffman:
The foolishness of thinking blowing things up solves problems was likely a consequence of a sort of despair my generation felt, facing the problems of our time. (This despair may have been in part due to the fact marijuana doesn’t solve problems.) I thought the group “Ten Years After” captured the despair well with their song, “I’d Love To Change The World.”
The more extreme radicals were not willing to take Ten Years After’s advice, “I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.” They wanted to take power into their own hands, and “gain control”. Out of this foolishness came professor Saul Lewinsky’s teaching, distilling the need for control into eight basic areas:
1) Healthcare– Control healthcareand you control the people
2) Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.
3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.
4) Gun Control– Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.
5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income)
6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school.
7) Religion – Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools
8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.
What I see in such a foolish and destructive desire to control others is a distrust of others approaching paranoid derangement. The sense others are fools is not extended to the self; there is no true sense of brotherhood. For example, while Stalin may have called many “comrade” before the Russian Revolution in 1917, the definition of “comrade” became narrower and narrower, as the definition of “enemies of the state” became broader and broader, until by his death he had “liquidated” nearly every person his own age who he had originally called “comrade”. When he “reorganized” agriculture it was not aimed at feeding Russia and in fact millions starved; it was all about control. Food must not be produced by independent farmers, but by the “collective”, which was a disaster.
In fact a couple of attributes of the paranoid mindset that must “control” others is its failure to produce, and its amazing inefficiency. The less freedom is allowed the less people have. It is all well and good to propose a “five year plan” that sets goals, but the goals are seldom achieved, and often the consequences of “control” are poverty and famine, such as has recently (2019) been seen in Venezuela. Society as a whole becomes poorer. This explains the question mark in the lyrics of the Ten Years After song I referred to earlier:
Tax the rich, feed the poor Till there are no rich no more?
Much of the inefficiency is due to people without experience writing the rules and regulations which “order” the people who have actual experience. Bureaucrats who have never run a business order about businessmen, spinsters who have never raised a child order about mothers, men who have never had dirt beneath their nails order about farmers. It is a recipe for disaster. The inherent distrust and paranoia which distrusts others is a self-fulfilling fear; if you distrust the ability of fellow fools to produce, production plummets.
It is amazing how different things become when you allow fellow fools freedom. Rather than merely calling them “comrade” you treat them like they actually are comrades. It involves true brotherhood and true sisterhood, the awareness that although we are all imperfect, God is in everyone. It gives up control to a higher ideal, a Power beyond our scope. It puts faith in the motto on the coins of the United States, “In God We Trust.”
That is the reason for number seven, in Saul Lewinsky’s eight areas necessary for complete control of a culture: Abolish God.
Faith in God and in fellow man results in astonishing productiveness, which goes against number two in Lewinsky’s madness, which deems poverty necessary for control.
Number five, which demands “control of welfare”, includes control of food, and jumped out at me because of the shortages I saw, not merely of toilet paper, but also of some food supplies, which occurred as the Corona Virus Panic swept my homeland, followed by demands by some that the government immediately seize control of food supplies.
I have studied the famines that occurred in both Russia and China when the might-makes-right mentality sought to “improve” food production and food distribution, and it is blatant that the “old fashioned” people, experienced at farming and marketing food, did a far better job than eager bureaucrats and the new-and-improved farming of collectives. (In the final days of the Soviet Union some freedom to farm outside of the “collective” was again permitted, even though such farmers farmed for “selfish gain”, and, despite the inherent selfishness, 5% of the farmers promptly produced 50% of Russia’s food.)
As I looked around during the so-called “pandemic” it seemed, to this old fool, that I was witnessing a naked grab for power by some who operate by the Saul Lewinsky playbook. They have been frustrated in their efforts to steer the United States to the “left”, for Americans want to be “straight”. Having seen a non-leftist elected by the people, the “left” sought to seize power in other undemocratic ways, utilizing falsehoods promoted by a blatantly biased media to attempt to impeach President Trump, and then, when that failed, attempting to use fear to panic people with an ordinary virus, into giving up their Liberty. As I watched this occur I found myself rapidly become just as paranoid as the might-makes-right mindset. The question then became, could I be a fool who behave differently than the might-makes-right fools, or would I be a fool dragged down to their level?
I thought , first, I should be honest. The “left” isn’t, preferring propaganda. Much of any “panic” is due to a sort of blindness induced by fear, with the fear aided and abetted by a sort of intellectual slight-of-hand which isn’t honest. In my years of combating the Global Warming Panic I’ve seen honesty is the best policy, and like to say, “Stand by the Truth and the Truth will stand by you.” While it may be true that “A lie will travel around the world as Truth is just putting on it’s pants”, Truth is like the turtle in the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, whereas lies are as flighty as a rabbit, (and while the life expectancy of a rabbit is short, turtles endure.) Aesop was quite correct, 2600 years ago, “Slow and steady wins the race”. Hoaxes will wilt like shadows, under the light of Truth.
Second, I should be brave. While honesty compels me to confess I do fear, one need not run like a rabbit and hide in a hole. Nor should one be shamed by mindless political-correctness into cowardly retreats. Once it became obvious the virus wasn’t going to overwhelm the hospitals, the reason for the quarantine of healthy people vanished, and healthy people have every legal and constitutional right to resume going about their ordinary business, which includes the risk of catching a cold every day of their lives. So I have gone back to work. If people want to make new laws, the laws need to be be legislated in a constitutional manner. We need to be brave enough to tell certain power-mad governors and mayors that they are the ones breaking the constitutional law, and they are the ones who need to obey. Have courage.
Third, I should be kind. It is hard to be kind to might-makes-right people who deem me a fool, and who are full of hateful, paranoid distrust. But they are pitiable, for they are basically frightened fools. Talk to them, and ask questions, and get them to confess who and what they are afraid of, and reassure them that there are civil ways of defeating feared consequences.
Fourth, I should keep the faith. I may not have control, but I am not in control of the seasons and they still function wonderfully. I can’t build a bird’s nest, but the birds build wonderful nests and still have time to sing. Do not dwell on despair when there are as many reasons for hope; do not take the worm’s view when the robin feeds its young. Faith takes some effort, so be disciplined, and go out of your way to see the beauty. Joy is not illegal.
Lastly, control that which is given to you to control. While I believe the final control lies in the hands of the Creator who created us, and while I don’t believe I need to control others and that they deserve the liberty they are given, I too have been given my realm to govern. I need to garden my personal plot of earth, whether it be a physical garden, or the plot of a story I’m writing.
One thing about the might-makes-right mentality is that they crave to plot. In some ways, to me, “plot” is the sound manure makes as it falls from the rear of livestock. But manure is good stuff, (called “brown gold” by some farmers), and I work it into the soil of my plot to grow potatoes. And that is my personal counter-revolution, and my counter-control. As an old fool and survivalist, I counter any leftist plot to control food supplies with my plot of potatoes. If all goes well, I’ll harvest more than I can eat, and it won’t matter if the markets have empty shelves.
Of course, all might not go well. Bugs and blights and droughts and hail might happen. But that is one good thing about having a garden. It is a constant reminder that though we attempt to control what we can, complete control is not ours, so we keep an eye to the Sky.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t call yourself a “farmer”, for even if you merely raise a lone tomato or cucumber on a patio or porch, there will come a day your idyll is interrupted by aphids, or a ravenous tomato-hornworm-caterpillar, and on that day you will understand farming isn’t peace. It is war.
To a certain degree this is life as usual. It doesn’t matter if you are starting a garden or engineering a bridge, “Murphy’s Law” will state “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”, and you will have to deal with unexpected foul-ups and unintended consequences. In moderation, this is fun, much like the stress of solving a crossword puzzle. Many assume gardening will involve moderation and be fun: There will be weeds but they will be weeded in a leisurely way, with dignity. Nope. Sooner or later it is war; total war.
One aspect of warfare is that not every attack results in victory. More ordinary is for an attack to result in resistance.
In terms of gardening, what this means is that when you pull some weeds, it is seldom a rout, with weeds fleeing in panic. In fact weeds often counter-attack. They think they have every bit as much a right to fertile soil as your tomato. Just who do you think you are, depriving ragweed?
In like manner, just because you put up chicken-wire, it is seldom a discouragement to predators. Just who do you think you are, depriving a mother fox food for her kits? In fact farmers have a wry saying, “If you want to know if there is wildlife in your neighborhood, get some chickens.”
In fact a farm is a lot like a fifteen round fight; you can’t expect to win every round. The problem is that some novices find it appalling, when they are knocked back on their heels and it is fairly obvious they are losing a round. It doesn’t fit their idyllic preconceptions of how gardening should be. A single sweltering day, or single swarm of midges, is enough, for some, and turns their confident advance into a panicky retreat. It is for this reason many gardens that look lovely in April become a thick and luscious bed of weeds by July. The gardener has lost the war.
Back when half of all Americans farmed, people were more reluctant to throw in the towel in the first or second round of the fight, because the consequences of losing were grave. There were no food-stamps, and poor people were not fat. Even if the bank took your farm you didn’t escape farming, for you had to go live on the “poor farm”. Often what you grew was all you had to eat, and people would struggle on despite much adversity, for a few small potatoes was better than none. As hard as such farming was, people were seemingly grounded in basic realities which the modern Socialist has forgotten. Where the Socialist promises to tax the rich and give the poor lots of free stuff, the old-time farmers knew nothing was free. The old-timers knew you “reap what you sow”, and that even such reaping didn’t happen unless you spent month after month fighting round after round.
My early life knew some amazing adventures which some would call “hardship”, and somewhere along the line I stopped taking anything for granted. Certain people I counted upon failed to keep the trust, so I became unwilling to rely on anyone but my foolish self, and God. For the most part my foolish self-reliance generated fiascoes, yet I always seemed to emerge from the rubble older and wiser, and for that God gets the glory.
To some degree my old age and (so-called) wisdom has involved a retreat into a sort of fall-back position. I am more inclined to adopt the attitudes of my great-grandparents than anything modern. In this manner I am like many New-Age idealists (and like Hippies of 1969, dreaming of idyllic communes), but the difference is that I don’t expect an idyll. I expect a fifteen-round brawl.
In dealing with this battle farmers have come up with various sprays: Pesticides and herbicides and fungicides, but what is really needed is a “socialisticide”. Socialists can be pests, when you put the rights of your chickens ahead of foxes, for they complain you are neglecting foxes, (when they aren’t clamoring for greater rights for your chickens.) How is it a people who have never farmed can assume they have authority over people who do? I’d like to spray them all down with “socialisticide”, when I’m in a grumpy mood.
I am saved from this grumpiness by my wife. Somewhat to my own astonishment I recently recognized my beloved is a socialist. But it is for all the right, non-materialistic reasons, based upon the “Book of Acts” in the Bible. Where politicians get insanely rich “helping” the poor, my wife’s brand of socialism sees our marriage’s skinny wallet gets skinnier. To some degree some of her charity is selfish, for “charity begins at home”, and she is big on “family values”. I am often asked to ignore an important farm-job, such as weeding, to attend an event that “supports the family”, such as a grandchild’s birthday.
I am reluctant to procrastinate, when it comes to weeding, for a weed which you can pinch from the soil with ease on Monday swiftly develops a root system by Friday that requires eye-popping effort to remove. My wife fails to understand this, for she rarely weeds. She also fails to understand my panic, when weeds are growing and ignored, and accuses me of caring more for weeds than grandchildren. (Such shots-to-the-heart are typical of Socialists.)
Like most good husbands I chose my battles, and the rest of the time I meekly say, “Yes Dear.” However I felt my tolerance getting stretched to the limit when I was asked to ignore farm matters for “good business practices.” My wife was staging a Socialist event called “A Preschool Graduation” at our Farm-childcare.
Absurd. Of what use is a diploma to a five-year-oId? And how can it compete with weeding the broccoli? Weeding produces a crop, whereas a five-year-old’s diploma produces nothing. (Sadly often a twenty-five-year-old’s diploma produces the same nothing.) However my wife stated diplomas produced “satisfied customers”, and that customers, and not my broccoli, was what truly fed us. I muttered we were teaching five-year-olds to value the wrong things, (in an inaudible manner), and said, “Yes dear” more loudly. My wife didn’t much like my tone.
I was then expected to “spruce up the place”, which involved making the productive farm look like an unproductive suburb. Rather than the important work of weeding , I had to “groom” the farm. I did a fine job, mowing and “weed-whacking ” edges and planting non-edible flowers and clearing trails of fallen trees and putting up balloons and banners, but the entire time my broccoli was screaming, “Help us! Save us!”
Finally the Socialism was done with, the children performed songs and parents were enthralled and diplomas were handed out and people ate a fine meal and the satisfied customers trailed off into the sunset, and I could at long last get down to the real work of catching up with my weeding. Immediately it rained.
Now it just so happens I can’t weed in the rain, because it spreads bacteria and fungus and diseases (especially with beans). Also I had to undergo oral surgery and have the roots of five teeth extracted from my upper jaw, and there were complications, and I was reduced to a diet of soft boiled eggs and gruel, which likely weakened my resistance to a summer cold passing through the Childcare. As my fever spiked at 101 degrees I was glad it was raining, for it gave me a good excuse to set a record for the number of naps a old man can take in a single day. But then my fever dropped and the forecast promised a single sunny day in a very rainy spring. I prepared to leap from bed and attack those weeds.
It turned out a side effect of this particular summer cold is that ones lungs are made hyper-sensitive to pollen, for a while. A number of local folk I spoke with complained about how they could not shake the congestion and hacking cough. I concur, but think they were too stoic and modest in describing how crippling the pulmonary inflammation was. I’ve never had asthma, but felt like I was having attacks. My nose streamed mucus in a way highly annoying to my wife, as she feels a dripping mustache does not lead to “satisfied customers.” My coughing fits can only be described as fits of hysteria; the coughs were so rapid they sounded like a machine gun, and one time, driving twenty miles an hour on a country lane, I nearly went off the road.
But I was not going to let some dumb cough slow me down. I muttered the old motto, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”, and figured some energetic exercise would clear my lungs. After I “hucked a looey” or two of phlegm, I’d be fine. The bell rang, and I headed out to fight the next round.
It was a bit like I walked into an uppercut to my jaw, though in fact it was a wall of pollen. Rather than clearing my lungs, exercise gagged me. My coughing was unproductive, and also embarrassing, for it was a senile “ih-ih-ih-ih-ih-ih”, yet so prolonged I couldn’t inhale. When a fit dropped me to one knee, I imagined a referee began counting, “One…two…three…four…”, and also a sardonic voice in the back of my mind stated, “Well, you are always telling people you want to die with your boots on.”
Fortunately I was saved by the bell and retreated to my corner, which was a shady place out of the sun. And when you are in the shade you can see things you can’t see out in the sun. I could see the air was filled with dust, fine yellow dust, streaming in the wind. Looking down at puddles from recent rains I noted each puddle was rimmed with yellow. Even as they shrank in the sunshine their little coasts were made golden by pollen. The scientist in me concluded that plants that have no use for bees, and pollinate using wind, have evolved some sort of self-restraint. They know better than to release pollen in the rain, when it will be beaten down, and withhold the release until the sun shines. And, when it has rained a solid week, this means an amazing amount of pollen gets released when the sun finally shines. The coach in my corner concluded we would be wise to avoid breathing, so I fought the next round sitting on my rider mower, catching up on cutting-the-grass.
Of course, as I sat on my duff on the puttering mower, I could look over at the garden and hear the broccoli weeping, “Help us! Save us!”, and I eventually heard the coach in my corner propose weeding in a pinkie-raised way that required no hacking hoe and heavy breathing. And we did a little of that, as the sun dimmed in streamers of cirrus overhead, and the west darkened with the rising purple of approaching thunder. But what really stuck in my head was the moment I sat in the shade, and looked out to sunshine, and suddenly understood how thick the pollen truly was. I said to myself, “There’s a sonnet in this”.
Midst my misery; my sneezing summer Cold; my snuffling self-pity; weaker Than a kitten; glum and getting glummer, My heart required humor be it’s speaker: “If we’ve got to die, let’s have our killer Be pine pollen, streaking yellow in the wind. These swaying trees aren’t like the miller Grinding flour steadily, but have grinned, Held back ammo all a rainy week, and then Let pollen go like a cavalcade of gold Dust in the wind. Why gripe you’re choked, when Sun-stirred breezes make twigs prance uncontrolled? The green-gold pine pollen’s such a wonder, Golden against rising purple thunder.”
At this point I adopted a new attitude. It was: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” In my war against weeds, I think it won me a round.
In terms of the original American family farmer, (now seen as a “third world phenomenon”), to fight when all is lost makes good sense, because a few potatoes is better than none, and hunger is better than starvation. However in the eyes of certain modern mentalities such forlorn struggling makes no sense, for only winning matters. If you don’t win every round, you sulk, and the loser demands a “participation trophy” as big as the trophy the winner gets. But gardens own no such Socialist sensitivity. If you don’t weed the broccoli, your trophy is not as big as a winner’s, and sometimes you get no trophy at all.
I think I picked up this old-fashioned earthiness from my elders when young, from the toughness of the people who in many cases lost everything in the Great Depression, but refused to roll over and die. In like manner, my father lost a great deal when, as a young surgeon, he was crippled during the last polio epidemic in 1954, and had to fight back. But one thing that impressed me most, as a small boy, was strangely derived from the attitude of the Boston Red Sox sports fans, (called the “Fenway Faithful”), who supported a losing team, at that time.
How I, as a seven-year-old, became infatuated by baseball is a bit of a mystery to me. My father had played as a boy, but didn’t like to bring up the subject because he now couldn’t play, due to polio. Perhaps to forget his handicap he became deeply engrossed in his work. Being engrossed, in fact, seemed a family trait. My mother, would could care less about baseball, was often absorbed in reading, as were my three older siblings, only one of whom played baseball. That particular brother vanished from time to time with a bat and glove, but I never went to any of his games, and he was downright secretive about what occurred while he was away.
Outside of lively discussions at the dinner table, my family usually was deeply absorbed in their private occupations. The noisy chirping of a curious seven-year-old like myself was not appreciated. My eldest brother tended to see my interest as an interruption, and also he sometimes was doing something he didn’t want people to know about, (such as making nitroglycerin). My mother could be so deeply engrossed in an Agatha Christi novel she didn’t notice loud explosions in the backyard. Some evenings the entire family might be reading, but I had no idea what any of the books were about. This made me want to write books, (so they might pay attention to me), but it also gave me plenty of scope to wander about unattended and discover baseball on my own terms, which included some early stages where I entertained some odd ideas about what the sport entailed.
The person most passionate about baseball was my grandmother. We lived about four miles away from her kitchen. Once we were not actually living with her and my grandfather (after 1954-55, when my entire family had polio, to different degrees, and we collapsed into my grandparent’s household), visits became formal and not all that often (to give them some well-deserved peace). When we visited they both sat in their armchairs in the living-room, as was their custom with guests. But even then, during the summer, in the background in the kitchen, I sometimes could hear a baseball broadcast, and occasionally my grandmother would cock her head and then vent some spleen about the “Red Flops”, which made me initially unsure of the team’s actual name.
Her sneering was odd, considering she knew the names and trivial details about every ballplayer on the team, and her eyes could moisten talking about them, but I think it was symptomatic of tougher times, when people’s lives were ruined by polio and measles and mumps; many families had lost members in World War Two and the Korean War; and few had made it through the Great Depression without experiencing need and want. Such sneering would most definitely be politically-incorrect now, fifty years later, but back then it was what you got instead of a “participation trophy”. When my older brothers poked into my non-stop scribbling and discovered I spelled “Red Sox” as “Red Socks”, I could expect sneering, but it wasn’t without goodhearted humor, and did alert me to my mistakes. Not that I would concede to asking them for a correct spelling. Come to think of it, one reason for the fact my family was so uncommunicative, when engrossed, might have been because they didn’t want to face a lot of sneering for their rough drafts. When things were discussed at the dinner table they tended to be completed events in the past tense; either a story of a success, or a funny tale of how an effort had crashed and burned. There was not much discussion about events “in process”.
In any case one thing I did, when my home was silent and I was left to my own devises, was to wander into the Victorian house’s big library and poke through my parent’s books, or an out-dated version of Encyclopedia Britannica, or go “fishing” on the old radio, which had AM, FM, and Short Wave bands. I’d chance upon strange music and languages. I recall one foreign music that fascinated me was a long drone of syllables in C, with the final two syllables descending through B-flat to G. It took me some time before I realized it was a local Catholic Mass, with the priest intoning in Latin.
Baseball made about as much sense to me as a Latin Mass, at first. I recognized it was in English, but the jargon was gobbledygook to me. I primarily was interested in the background noises, the man shouting “Hot Dogs!” and another shouting “Ice Cold Beer”, and the occasional voice shouting something rude, which I’d get in trouble for shouting, if I ever dared shout it.
The Red Sox had become a bad team and the crowd was so sparse at Fenway Park that individual fan’s voices could be quite distinct, over the radio. But I seldom listened long, as there were more interesting channels to search through. However there were an amazing number of affiliates in the “Red Sox Network”, back then, so I kept running into the same game on different AM stations, some far away and staticy, and some near and loud. I even could run into games on the FM band. There was no escaping gradually attempting to make sense of the nonsense.
One September afternoon I came home after a bad day at school. My Third Grade Teacher was a cross old lady, and I already had the strong feeling it was going to be a bad year. It was going to be a bad year on the bus as well, for the elder brothers who once defended me from sixth-grade-bullies had moved up to Junior High and took a different bus, and my sister preferred to pretend she didn’t know me. When I came trudging into my home after my bad day I could hear my mother busy upstairs with her afterthought babies, a brother aged two and a sister aged six months. My job then was to be quiet, and not keep the babies from napping, so I tiptoed off to the Library to quietly zone-out “fishing” on the old radio, with the sound turned down very low. I noticed the end of an afternoon Red Sox game was on, but something seemed very different. The announcers, who usually had somewhat robotic “newsreel” voices, seemed ever so slightly emotional. Not that a modern Socialist could hear a hint of emotion in their stern voices, but, to a 1950’s boy like myself, accustomed to the stoic machismo of that time, they were all but blubbering, and it made me so uncomfortable I changed the station.
But I kept running into the same blubbering announcers on other stations, and eventually curiosity kicked in. What was so special? Even the crowd sounded larger and very different. Once I focused my seven-year-old brains, I learned a lot in a hurry. Not necessarily about baseball, but rather about how “it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
As my seven-year-old brain attempted to assimilate the data, I came to understand the Red Sox were losers, who were finishing 32 “games behind” (whatever that meant). They were “next to last”, in terms of some thing called “the standings”, but the first-place team, called the “Tankies” or some such thing, apparently quaked in their boots when facing the Red Sox, according to the announcer. Even though the Red Sox could only spend a dime for every hundred dollars the Tankies could spend, there was no other team that had won more games against the Tankies. The Red Sox had won seven games, and only lost four, against the Tankies, which was better than better teams did, so who was actually better?
(Now that I’m old and cynical I suspect the highly-payed Yankees perhaps did not take lowly teams like Boston and Kansas-City seriously, and stayed up too late and drank too much beer the night before, which explains why they got their butts kicked so often by cellar-dwelling teams. But at age seven I lacked such cynicism.)
As I listened to the announcer I came to understand it was the last home game of the year, and that even though the Tankies had won 94 games and the Red Sox only 65, the Red Sox were better than the Tankies. This made no sense, so I switched the station.
Immediately coming across the same game on another station, I learned more. Apparently the reason the Red Sox were better than the Tankies was because they had a great player named Fred Millions, or some such thing. However not only was it the Red Sox last home game of the season, it was the last home game of Fred’s 21-year-career, and, because it was the eighth inning, it might be Fred’s last time at bat at Fenway Park. The half-empty ballpark held more than thrice as many fans as the poor team usually drew, and they were making more noise than usual as he walked up to home plate to bat.
The announcer was droning statistics, going on about how Fred might have hit as many home-runs as someone called something like Gabe Tooth, but Fred left baseball to serve as a fighter pilot in World War Two and again as a jet pilot in the Korean War, missing five years “in his prime”, whatever that was. Even so he’d hit 520 home-runs, third most of all players in world history, and was the last player to “bat over four-hundred”, and, if you included all the times he was walked by pitchers scared to give him a good pitch, his “on-base-percentage” was the highest of any player who had ever lived.
None of this gobbledygook made much sense to me, so I switched down the dial and listened to the end of a lively polka. When an announcer then began speaking Polish, I searched on and blundered across the Red Sox game again, and was startled by the difference.
Fred Millions had hit a home run his last time at bat, and the cheering went on and on. The cheering continued when the inning was over, and Fred went out to play left field, and then the manager, named “Pinkie” (which seemed strange), sent out a young substitute and the crowd roared louder as Fred jogged in, and began chanting “We want Ted” when he disappeared into the dugout, (which alerted me to the fact his name was “Ted” and not “Fred”). But what seemed most interesting to me was a conversation between the announcer and some other guy. They were wondering whether Ted would “doff his cap” or not. I was unsure what “doffing” was, but the other guy said Ted would never do it. He listed a long string of reasons, going back 21 years.
Apparently my grandmother wasn’t the only one who called the team the “Red Flops”, and Ted got tired of fan’s fickle sneering, and the way they would boo the same day they would cheer. But worst were some people called “Ports Retorters”, who had called him a “draft dodger” (whatever that was) when he was actually a “war hero”, and also called him lots of other bad things. Ted, after spitting in the direction of the press when young and hot-blooded, decided to just be a great hitter and skip doffing, and he didn’t doff no matter how the crowd cheered or booed. (Note: As an old man in 1999 Ted Williams eventually did “doff” a cap he brought out onto the field, saluting the “Fenway Faithful”, 39 years later, during a ceremony to honor him, during an All Star Game.)
I turned the radio off, moved by deep emotion (for a seven-year-old). I too wanted to have everyone cheer me, and to not doff. I wanted everyone to be good and sorry they had sneered at me. I wanted my crabby old teacher to be sorry she crabbed, the bullies on the bus to be sorry they bullied, and my older brothers to be sorry they teased and jeered, but to not to care a hoot about their dumb, old apologies. They didn’t matter. What mattered was “how you played the game”.
My embryonic seven-year-old’s toughness was actually quite spiritual, when I think about it. The Truth remains the Truth whether one receives adulation or the lack of it. One should focus on the job at hand, irregardless if they are cheered or booed, encouraged or discouraged, in first place or last, rich or poor, or whether they win elections or lose them.
Of course, no man is an island, and we do tend to be influenced by others, irregardless of their connection to the Truth, and their status as “good influences” or “bad influences”. I confess to being swayed by flattery and discouraged by rejection, even when I recognized the people influencing me were idiots. However deep down every man has a lodestone called a “conscience”, and this criterion, and not some silly “participation trophy”, is what tells us if we are on track or not.
One thing that I shake my head about, concerning modern Socialists, is their tendency to be driven wild by the most innocuous events and statements. They become imbalanced by the blow of a feather. To a gruff old-timer like myself, they seem the epitome of “snowflake” wimpiness, and even an opposite of stoicism quite different from epicureanism, for at least epicureans can hope for hedonistic pleasure, whereas Socialist whining calls misery its beloved company, and cultivates caterwauling.
If Socialists had been in Fenway Park on September 28,1960, I imagine they would have quickly become furious with Ted Williams for not doffing his cap, and their cheers would have swiftly devolved to the rot of booing, if not a riot. I’m glad I was formed in a different time, when the “Fenway Faithful” could not only cheer an amazing career, but even cheer the simple fact the star would not doff his cap. They did not need his praise any more than he needed theirs. What mattered was deeper.
What has this to do with farming?
In farming there is an odd tendency to keep fighting even when you have lost the first fourteen rounds. Where in boxing there is at least the chance of a fifteenth-round-knock-out, whereupon the loser becomes a winner, in farming one can be in the position of the 1960 Red Sox, more than thirty “games behind” the Yankees. There is no chance of being champion, but one still fights on, and, like Ted Williams, seeks to hit a home run their final time at bat.
Farming is like baseball because in April all hope to “win the pennant”, which in farming terms is called “harvesting a bumper crop.” If your harvest is big you might make a profit and then be able to invest the money on improvements. However, just as few teams are champions, in baseball, few farmers harvest bumper crops, in farming. As the summer proceeds one starts to understand they may not “win the pennant”, but they keep playing the game. They pay no heed to booing or cheap shots from the peanut gallery, and instead plod on.
Some poets call this toughness a sign of a “desensitized” man, and like to preen before mirrors and think their emotional responses prove they are more sensitive, when often their hysteria only proves they are fickle and irrational. After all, the same crowd that cheered Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem jeered and demanded he be crucified only days later, and I see nothing particularly sensitive about that.
Lord, how they sneered and mocked You and Your word, Yet You asked that they still be forgiven. That doesn’t mean that You thanked them. It’s absurd To think You should thank cruel, ungrateful men For their misdeeds. Our tardy gratitude Seems too little too late… ……………………………………….When his at-bat At the very finish astounded the rude Boston fans with William’s final home run, his hat He would not doff. Why thank fans who sneered For twenty years, and saw flaws in great deeds? His hat stayed firm, as home plate neared. Odd how our sneering reveals our hid needs. Some were quite hurt Ted did not doff his cap. We’ll all feel the same when Christ points out our crap.
Midst thriving weeds I plug onward, knowing Earth is not heaven, and my sweat and strain Won’t make me rich. Perhaps what I am growing Is character, more than material grain. Perhaps in the fall I’ll reap a small crop Which is better than none, but it’s also true That my own green season, called “life”, must stop And then I’ll see “You can’t take it with you.” While in this world we gather and then store In pantries the foods to feed us through the snows, To death we go naked. What life calls “more” Is left behind, and the gardener then knows What he grows is not rolled off in a cart But is blooming that hints at a truly changed heart.
The original farmers of the United States were different from modern “agribusiness”, in that they were not in the business of farming to get rich as much as they were in it for a quite different reason, (basically to live free, and raise a family, which involved raising the crops that would feed that family). Farming was way of life, a deed men did without thinking deeply about why they did it, just as we get dressed in the morning without thinking deeply about why we wear clothes. What’s more, they didn’t have the time to think about it. Physically they worked more than twice as hard as we do. This is shown by the fact they ingested more than 4000 calories a day and didn’t get fat, while some us can get fat on less than 2000. In many ways they were a very different people.
It is hard for modern psyches to grasp the fact more than half of all Americans could feed (often large) families without working for any boss other than themselves. Not only did they feed themselves, but they also were forced to be artisans: They spun wool and cured leather and clothed themselves, built their own cabins and sheltered themselves, burned tallow candles for light and burned wood for heat, and had absolutely no need for government welfare or food stamps. They were the “Yeoman Farmer” Thomas Jefferson admired and called crucial to democracy, and were the “Kulak” Stalin despised, and sought to “purge” from Russia, even if millions starved in the process.
Because I in some ways see myself as a “Kulak”, I can’t help but notice that nothing irks a Socialist more than an individual who is self-reliant, for he is proof we do not need bureaucrats (who make a living off telling us how to live our lives). In many cases such independence on our part threatens a bureaucrat’s very livelihood. For example, if you are a social worker, and families are self-reliant and happy, of what use are you? In such a case it is the social worker who needs food-stamps and welfare, and not the people he or she imagines is dependent on him or her.
Not that the original American farmers had an easy life. I could go in great detail about the conflicts between an immigrant people who could feed a family with 60 acres (New England) or 250 acres (Prairie States) and a native people who wanted to feed their families utilizing 100,000 or 1,000,000 acres. But let me simplify matters by mentioning conflicts between farmers and a grasshopper called Melanoplus spretus.
Melanoplus spretus was North America’s locust. A locust is a grasshopper which has the ability to undergo a Jekyll-Hyde transformation. For years, even decades, it can hop around like an innocent grasshopper, but some sort of trigger can cause it to amazingly change, whereupon it looks physically different and it reproduces differently as well. The innocent grasshopper becomes a voracious swarm, darkening the sky and not only eating all your crops, but the wool off the backs of your sheep, and even the leather of your shoes. Although Melanoplus spretus lived in the Rocky Mountains, when triggered by drought or over-population into its locust form, huge swarms traveled east all the way to the farms in my homeland of New England.
It is difficult to imagine how gigantic and devastating these swarms were. The largest could cover an area the size of California and number over ten trillion insects. In a matter of hours, months of a farmer’s hard work vanished. Using my boxing analogy, it was as if, in the tenth round, one’s opponent abruptly morphed into King Kong. And then?
Then farmers fought like hell, as if their lives depended on it, because their lives did. The tales of how they fought back are amazing, but the fighting seemed basically useless. Worst was the fact that, at the end of the summer, these huge swarms would hunker down and lay trillions upon trillions of eggs.
This was hugely depressing to farming families. As the locusts ate everything above ground, farmers knew they might eek by on the incompletely-formed crops that grew below ground: Undersized potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, sweet potatoes and rutabagas might help a family struggle through a hungry winter, but the following spring they would not be able to even plant such root crops, for the soil was infested with locust eggs, and they’d hatch in the spring and eat the first sprouts of every crop you planted. Then, when they had eaten everything in sight, the swarm would arise en-mass and head east, always east. Melanoplus spretus never returned home to the west with trophies of conquest, but continued east until the Atlantic Ocean proved an absolute end to a swarm, and fishes got fat.
It is difficult to see what ecological advantage Melanoplus spretus derived from these banzai charges to the east. As they left the arid west they increasingly moved into lands they were not suited for. Early Mormon history speaks of farmers falling to their knees in prayer when a swarm threatened their crops, and how their prayers were answered by a huge flock of voracious gulls. Also, even when Melanoplus spretus laid trillions of eggs, a very wet spring with standing puddles in the fields could kill every egg. Therefore not every swarm made it to the Atlantic. No colony was ever established in the east, and the swarming seems a sort of extravagant waste, on the part of Mother Nature.
Melanoplus spretus was but one form of ruin faced by the early American homesteaders. They also faced droughts, floods, hail, and the simple fact their eastern farming-practices were not suited for the naturally-arid western lands. They faced stampedes of buffalo, and the arrows of a native population who did not much like squatters who killed their buffalo.
Lastly they faced misinformation from callous people who sought to financially gain from the migration of millions of basically ignorant farmers. These dishonest people included those investing in railways and farm equipment, and the banking institutions that financed such endeavors. What such profiteers tended to do was make farming look like an idyll, and to fail to mention it is a war. The advertisements in the eastern newspapers of that time look comical, in the way they describe a paradise out west.
One concept that seems strangely modern was the idea of Climate Change. What homesteaders imagined would change their arid 250-acres was not virtue-signaling by buying curly candles or riding electric horses, (or throwing a virgin into a volcano), but rather was through their sweat, as they busted the thick sod, and also planted an acre of trees on their 250-acre-farm. The “climate scientists” of that time, with pompous authority, stated “farming brought rain”, and the more naive farmers believed them, and planted the required acre of trees in an arid landscape. Optimism abounded during the wet years, but then the climate did what it always does, and there came drought and ruin and, with the dryness, Melanoplus spretus.
It is easy for us to look back and smugly criticize, for the farmers made many mistakes. (Remember many were gutsy fathers fleeing sweat-shop factories in cities, seeking a better life for their children, and some had little experience of farming outside of what they read in pamphlets.) Before we are too scornful of them we should understand that some day people will look back at us, and smugly criticize us for all the dunderhead things we do in the name of “Climate Change.” But what amazes me is how the farmers fought, against daunting odds, and how they became an unrecognized and vital (and very necessary) “part of a process”, which did profoundly change the world, in a way we all benefit greatly from.
It is easy to criticize the changes as being ruinous to the ecology of the prairie, and to the indigenous people dependent on that ecology. The slaughter of the buffalo was appalling, and the fury of the Sioux understandable, but that is because we are able to sit in ivory towers, blessed by our ability to indulge in a leisurely appraisal. We forget the people of that time were within the fog of war. Even the Sioux were a culture going through radical changes, for they had formerly hunted buffalo on foot, but now were an amazing, new people on horseback.
To the farmers in the fog of war there was little time for leisurely appraisal, for they had children to feed, and often the situation was desperate enough in a mere drought, even before Melanoplus spretus appeared. When the trillions of grasshoppers then descended the way farmers fought insects, back before pesticides, is both laughable and courageous. They built fires and created thick clouds of smoke, and hammered together gadgets that knocked flying grasshoppers into trays of kerosene, which they pulled through their stripped fields with their horses. To kill the grasshopper’s eggs they would churn the soil with plows, even plowing soil they had no intention to plant.
When they turned to the government for help, moronic politicians wrote a law that punished farmers with a fine, if they didn’t devote two days a year to killing grasshoppers. (I wonder who spied on the farmers, and who collected the fines.) The government also offered a bounty for every bushel (35 liters) of dead grasshoppers the farmers turned in. In March, when the baby grasshoppers were small, a farmer might make a dollar a bushel, but by June, when the grasshoppers got big and fat, the bounty shrank to a dime. But even a slender, silver dime was better than zero, when you had a family to feed. To feed their families desperate farmers fished for the smallest horn-pout, and hunted rat-like prairie dogs, and even fried the grasshoppers themselves.
The most effective help came from fellow farmers, via churches. Farmers in areas outside the reach of a swarm sent food and fodder to those afflicted. Often the favor was returned in only a few years. When the climate swung from dry to wet the grasshoppers vanished, and the empty fields abruptly held bumper crops even as farmers to the east suffered floods, and then the farmers who had been helped became the generous helpers.
One way or another the farmers got by. It is easy to scorn and sneer at them, for they knew little about soil erosion, or that, by busting the sod, they were creating the loose soil that would blow as enormous clouds in the Dust Bowl. During the Dust Bowl over a million farmers lost everything and became refugees, and we can now sit back in our ivory towers and say “tsk tsk” about their ignorance, but perhaps we display a certain ignorance by forgetting that much we know about soil erosion came through mistakes they made. They were the ones actually learning from their mistakes, and actually suffering in the fog of war.
Some of the things they learned had benefits of a magnitude they likely could never imagine. For example, when dealing with Melanoplus spretus some farmers hit upon the idea of planting crops that matured in the spring, when the grasshoppers hadn’t hatched or were still small. Refugees from Russia then remembered stuff they planted in the late summer in Siberia they could harvest the next spring, called “winter wheat”. It would form a turf in the late fall, and in the spring swiftly send up fruiting shoots. Tiny, baby grasshopper might stunt this fruition, but they couldn’t stop it. This Kulak idea took off, spreading from farmer to farmer until, even when the grasshoppers were around and the crop was lessened, enough was salvaged so that people had, at least, a little bread.
Environmentalists and Sociologists do like to repeat “tsk tsk” about the mistakes made by those farmers. The buffalo very nearly did become extinct, but through the Grace of God and the alertness of early environmentalists, they were saved. The Sioux nearly became extinct as a people, but through the Grace of God and their own innate toughness, they survived. Prairie sod nearly became extinct, and only remains in scattered parks. A type of grouse farmers called “the prairie chicken” did become extinct, which was sad even for those farmers, who liked to hunt and eat them, but that extinction is now is used as a reason to say, “tsk tsk”. Yet I almost never hear ecologists mention another extinction.
As the year 1900 approached there was a drought, and farmers anxiously looked west for the skies darkening with Melanoplus spretus, but the grasshoppers didn’t come. Farmers were too busy with drought and hail and bankers to pay much heed to this good fortune, but up in the mountain valleys a few looked around, and could see no Melanoplus spretus. Perhaps due to cattle being driven up mountain river floodplains and changing the habitat, the grasshoppers had not merely become scarce. They vanished from the face of the earth. The last one was seen in Canada in 1902.
The extinction of Melanoplus spretus likely contributed to a new and unexpected disaster that hit those struggling farmers, which was the phenomenon of bumper crops. So much wheat was produced that, due to the economic principle of “supply and demand”, the price of wheat fell so low that farmers couldn’t make any money selling it. Of course, even with prices at rock bottom, some profiteering people got rich. (Don’t get me started on the moral decrepitude of such people. They like to claim they “fulfill a need”, but whores “fulfill a need”, and it doesn’t make them one bit moral.) In any case, railways stood to make money by holding a monopoly on the shipments of grain, and commodity markets made money even as prices crashed, and sellers of farming equipment made money repossessing equipment, and bankers made money repossessing farms. At times it seemed the only ones who didn’t get fat off off the bumper crop was the farmers who actually created the plenty.
The farmer is the man. The farmer is the man; Lives off his credit ‘til the fall, Then they take him by the hand And they lead him from the land And the banker is the one who gets it all, Yet the farmer is the man. The farmer is the man. Some people disagree But its obvious to me That the farmer is the one who feeds us all.
(Song from “Farm Aid” concert, circa 1976)
Farmers are the salt of the earth, for without them we all starve, but as a rule they barely subsist, in materialistic terms. On the great American plains they came and went like dust in the wind. (And I am not talking about a few, but rather millions of families.)
One reason Abraham Lincoln was elected (with less than 40% of the popular vote) was because he offered poor people “free land” via the “Homestead Act”. This act offered any man, from any slum or eastern, hardscrabble farm, 250 acres out west, for not a penny down. All a man needed to do was head west, make his claim for a particular plot, and live there for five years. A no-brainer, right? Millions of families with little to lose ripped up what roots they had, and headed west to lay claim to 250 acres for free.
We can still look at the records kept by those long-ago bureaucrats, and one appalling thing is that roughly half of the families couldn’t even fulfill the stipulation that they live on the land for for five years. Therefore, right off the bat, we have over a million families defeated by the fog of farming’s war. What became of all those families?
Continue on, through disaster after disaster, to the Dust Bowl, when more than a million more farming families were driven from the land. The 250-acre-farm largely became a thing of the past, and entire communities became ghost towns. And one wonders, “Who in their right mind would ever want to be a farmer?”
What this fails to measure is intangible to Socialists, (and also many Capitalists), who measure all in terms of status and money.
Millions of American families came to the prairies, and millions left, and almost none saw a long-term material profit, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some farmers were so amazingly tough that not even the Dust Bowl’s temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit could defeat them. These survivors were unbelievable.
Back in my drifting days I had the good fortune to be befriended by a retired farmer from Garden City, Kansas, who liked to sip beers and become garrulous, and regale me with tales of how his family survived the Dust Bowl.
His father was a Polish refugee who was too smart to ever enter an agreement that would allow a bank to take his farm, or to ever buy equipment on an installment plan that would allow his equipment to be repossessed. Perhaps he didn’t modernize as swiftly as other farmers, but he completely avoided debt. Even when he experienced complete crop failure, he didn’t owe anyone anything.
The gruff man’s practicality is perhaps best shown by the fact that, when he became aware he had contracted tuberculosis and likely would soon die, he moved to a barn so his children would not be exposed to the bacteria. However he was too ornery to die, and from the barn he commanded his family with the discipline of Captain Bligh. Between dust and tuberculosis he could barely breathe, but neither man nor beast wanted to see him emerge from the barn in a rage, for he was ruthless with his whip. Modern “animal rights” people would likely sue him, and he’d also likely be in jail for “child abuse” for how tough he was on his many sons, but he got his family through the Dust Bowl, to the blessed day the rains returned. (My friend told me that, because the heat and drought had been so chronic in the 1930’s, his childhood created the impression that Dust Bowl conditions simply were how the world was, and that, when the rains returned, it then seemed downright bizarre to look around in the spring and see all the Kansas fields be green.)
When the rains returned the farm, which had somehow managed to survive without an income, suddenly had an income. At this point the father seemed to feel he had won his private war, and passed away, but his strapping sons were not happy, having an income. As best as I can tell, life was too easy. After a decade fighting for survival, bumper crops were like a life without battle for a Viking, or life without football for a linebacker. After Pearl Harbor all the brothers rushed off to fight Japan and Germany. Only one son, my friend, remained to run the farm with his mother, because he was too young to enlist and also because the American government basically ordered him to stay.
My friend was a bit ashamed that he, the “baby”, stayed at home and didn’t fight Hitler, but I pointed out someone had to “feed the fighters”. I said he was the “hero” who fed the “war effort”, both the soldiers and the workers toiling in munitions-factories, but my flattery fell flat. He said he was uncomfortable because he had made enormous profits during the war. He could handle poverty, and even derive joy from such a life, but wealth made him strangely miserable.
Something about this tough farmer’s attitude seems utterly beyond the capacity of most socialists, (and also many capitalists), to comprehend. They cannot conceive of people who are not enthralled by money and status, and who live for something else.
When I asked him what he did with all his money, he laughed. He said that when the rains returned, and Kansas farmers got rich, they traded-in their beat up, old Model-A Fords and drove Cadillacs. Then, when the ground was frozen in the winter, they would go roaring across the wheat fields around Garden City in their fancy cars. Sometimes they’d tie the hood of an old truck to a long rope, upside down, as a sort of sled they pulled behind their Cadillacs, and would drag bunches of gleeful children behind them. When I asked the old wheat-farmer if any children got hurt, he shook his head, and stated the experience educated children about the importance of holding on for dear life.
When I asked if farmers did economically sensible things, such as reinvest their money, he looked bored, and said “Yes”. So many farmers had lost their farms in the Dust Bowl that there were lots of 250-acre-farms to buy dirt cheap, especially if they abutted your farm, but such successful expansion seemed to bore him. He could fluently discuss a mini-Dust-Bowl drought in the 1950’s, and high prices during the Korean War, but he always seemed ready to yawn as I pestered him with such pragmatic questions.
Instead what seemed to really animate him was the subject of his children. When I asked if any of his children became farmers, he sat forward and eagerly told me they were too smart to become farmers, and then began to tick off the colleges they had attended, proudly stating how much smarter they were than he was. After college they all had gone on to prestigious corporations and big businesses he could brag about. It seemed all had become very successful, but to me it seemed his children’s success was due to the “character” inherited from the farming life, even among children who desired to leave farming far behind. Yet I confess that, when I first looked at the old man, I didn’t suspect there was any iron under the rust; he appeared to be an old Yahoo; one might suspect he was a character without suspecting he had any.
Just as I gave this old farmer credit for “defeating Hitler”, even though he stayed “home with his Mommy”, and only produced the huge crops that fed the troops, it also seems to me that the millions of farmers from families who lost their farms in the Dust Bowl also deserve a degree of deference.
Why? Because even as they became homeless they saved millions in Africa, Asia and Europe. They were “part of a process” that turned an obscure Siberian wheat into a huge American surplus, shipped far and wide in fifty or hundred pound sacks, labeled “USA”, often for free as “foreign aid”. As much as ecologists gripe about the diminished ecosystem of the buffalo, there are many people alive in Africa, Asia and post-World-War-Two Europe who might never have been born, had not American “winter wheat” arrived to prevent their grandparents from dying of famine.
Hopefully a few Sioux see that the crazy flood of American farmers onto the Great Plains, as a crazy pale-faced people who basically wrecked the Sioux’s ecosystem and way of life, and then largely vanished over the horizon, was “part of a process”. The suffering of the Sioux is at least in part made bearable because millions in Asia, Africa, and Europe were benefited. (It is also made bearable because in some areas, where the Sioux once became a minority, they now have regained the majority, because they persisted as the farmers fled).
But what did the farmers themselves get out of their struggle?
“Character”. A wonderful classiness, immeasurable by those who seek mere money and status, and who are therefore not much different from old-fashioned Hindu enslaved by their ancient caste-system, where some are deemed “Brahman” and some “Untouchable”.
Socialists often fall prey to such typecasting, and can be as enslaved to class as the most ardent royalist, though Socialists usually seek to make the royal (and the successful) the “bad guy”, who unjustly “oppresses the poor”. Socialists see the solution to such injustice as being to crush the upper class (the “bourgeoisie”) and the middle class (the “petite bourgeois”) (and this includes Yeoman farmers), and to make the poor (the “proletariat”) a sort of new upper class. Yet such socialists only perpetuate the caste-system, though they howl they oppose it. They resemble a person opposed to promiscuous sex, who cannot get his mind off the topic. They cannot escape the trap of dividing people into categories, nor grasp the liberating concept of, “All Men Are Created Equal”.
One of the best tales about the tough times the farming families endured is John Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath”, which I was required to read in school in 1968. I particularly remember Steinbeck’s amazing, vicious description of the man buying broke farmer’s cars, profiteering from their misfortune. The description was so brilliantly effective that it caused me to become hugely bigoted towards used-car-salesmen for decades, (until I actually befriended one). However Steinbeck ends his tale failing to mention what happened next. He leaves one with the sense that the poor Dust Bowl “Okies” were forever ruined.
Indeed they did suffer a downfall, from a people with middle-class houses and 250 acre farms and state-of-the-art tractors and other farm equipment, to being homeless migrant farm-workers, picking grapes, (before Mexicans with green-cards picked the grapes), and living in rented shacks. But that was not the end, because, though disdained and called “Okies”, they were people with “character”, who raised fine children and grandchildren who changed the world in a way absolutely nobody saw coming. Their children and grandchildren now make far more money than they could ever have made, back on the farm, working on things called “computers” in a place called “Silicon Valley”. Steinbeck never foresaw this, and instead seemed prone towards Socialist solutions. Yet what raised the ruined farmers called “Okies” to plush suites in Silicon Valley was not socialist food-stamps, but rather was “character”.
This “character” seems to be a thing that can be lost, if you become too divorced from the farming life that brought it about in the first place. It does not seem to matter if you are rich or poor. It happens to the rich grandchildren of Okies in Silicon Valley, and to the impoverished grandchildren of sharecroppers in America’s inner cities. Once this difficult-to-define “character” is lost, then even a beautiful, golden state like California, richest in the nation with the best educational system, can crash in flames to one of the poorest and most ill-educated, with an entire new group of “Okies” homeless on its streets.
Certain kind people take pity on children in slums, and their charity allows such youths to spend a summer on a rural farm. The host-farm is usually not an agribusiness, but a more old-fashioned farm. I have even read of inner-city youth being sent to Indian Reservations in the Pacific Northwest, where they learned to harvest salmon from rivers and abalone from the sea. In nearly all such cases the children are permanently, positively changed.
Not that they change in the manner some desire: They don’t abruptly wear suits and attend church, if Christians sponsored their escape from slums, and in fact they may go right back to the gangs and drugs they briefly escaped, but they are different; they are changed; they own the odd thing called “character”. People who study such things things have discovered, through “follow-up-studies”, that more than a decade later many of the now-mature recipients of such experiences still claim a brief vacation on a farm was “the most influential experience of their life.” But what was the influence?
As the owner of a back-to-nature Farm-Childcare I am into my eleventh year of dealing with clueless children. Not that such such children, even at age three, are not far smarter than I am, when it comes to the subject of how to operate a computer or a cellphone. However they haven’t a clue where food comes from. They are amazed (and delighted) to learn carrots and potatoes come from “dirty dirt”. They are amazed (and delighted) to discover eggs come from a chicken’s “stinky butt”. Sometimes, to the horror of their parents (and requiring amazing diplomacy on the part of my wife), these children are delighted (and amazed) to see that meat involves “killing”.
Although parents are vaguely troubled by a political-incorrectness inherent in “dirty dirt” and “stinky butts” and “killing”, in the end the parents thank me. Why? Because they have seen a undeniable blossoming in their child. But I try to tell them I am not the cause. I did not invent the fact carrots come from “dirty dirt”. I did not invent the fact that eggs come from a “stinky butt”. I did not invent the fact all meat comes from “killing”. I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done.
I did not create the pines, and I did not create the wind, but when I take a frenetic kid out and he gets dreamy and far calmer, looking up and listening to the wind in the pines, parents treat me like I changed the child. It actually was something far greater than I. All I do is show children what already is.
But it is not merely the children in slums, and the children of overworked parents who use a computer for a babysitter, who stand to gain from being reintroduced to the farm and the outdoors. It is also the grandchildren of Okies who work in Silicon Valley. They are as deprived as the ghetto-abiding grandchildren of sharecroppers who have never plowed or planted, and who see only asphalt. But, sadly, the deprived of Silicon Valley are blind to their deprivation, and actually scorn the heartland’s earthy citizens as “Deplorables.”
Many in Silicon Valley embrace socialism, some with the fervor of Mao’s “Red Guard”. They have either forgotten, or never studied, their own Socialist history.
When Mao felt the Red Guard had outlived their usefulness, what did he do with their youthful zeal? He had the army round them up and shipped them off to rural areas to be “reeducated.” (In essence the result of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” was that China became a police state.) There is a delicious irony in the way Mao praised the benefits of “life on the farm”, though he disliked the Yeoman Farmer as much as Stalin did, and strove to replace the self-reliant farmers and artisans, whom Jefferson admired, with the “collective”.
Sometimes I like to play the devil’s advocate, and to ask how my Farm-Childcare is any different from a Gulag. Am I not snatching children from the video games they desire? Initially many children loudly express their dislike of the outdoors and announce an unwillingness to walk even fifty yards. Am I not a sort of brutal Mao to urge them onward, and isn’t my “reeducating” a sort of brainwashing? I can only answer that the children seem to quickly adapt, and that they wear smiles, and sometimes they don’t even want to go home, which isn’t observed too often in Gulags.
When I think more deeply I enter debatable territory, but will throw a few ideas out to be mulled over. One idea is that I allow far more freedom than a Gulag, and in fact freedom is at the root of what I attempt. While children seem made nervous by a complete lack of boundaries, they like freedom within certain limits; IE: They don’t want to be left alone to meet a bear or coyote in the woods, but they like being left alone to build their own forts.
Children like having a rough idea of the rules under which a sport is played, but also like having the freedom to spend half their time arguing about the rules (which is how I played baseball as a boy.) Rather than “organized” sports, my Childcare has “disorganized” sports. While I do oversee the sports, to prevent bloodshed, I try to stand back as I oversee freedom. And, as I stand back and watch, it seems to me that one important quality of freedom is that it involves experiencing and playing-with limits and limitations.
It is quite fascinating to watch children play with limits and limitations, (even when the limit they are testing is me.) Sometimes, for example when building a fort, they are dealing with a physical limitation and are young engineers, attempting a Tower of Babel, and then bursting into tears when it falls down and they are confronted with “Murphy’s Law”. Other times they are dealing with social limitations, for example when determining the ownership of a stick which looks perfectly ordinary to me, and certainly not worth arguing about. Sometimes they ask for help and sometimes they want to “do it themselves”, but always they are “part of a process”, involving a subject and an object.
As I stand back and watch I notice a difference between the children who “get along” and those who “don’t get along”. It seems to involve the difference between a willingness to be “part of a process”, and a craving to “control the process”, and this often seems to involve whether the child’s faith has been nourished or shattered. (Unfortunately we have a severe drug-problem in New Hampshire, and some small children have witnessed parents become unconscious or even die, and these unfortunate tykes are raised by grandparents who send them to my Childcare.)
Of course as soon as I broach the topic of “faith” I risk provoking broadsides from both Atheists and Believers, but I must say that a child who has had their faith nourished tends to be cheerful and to trust others, while a child who has had their faith shattered tends to be a bit of a bully, (in several different, manipulative ways), and to chronically distrust others. The first tends to trust being “part of the process”, whereas the second is suspicious and wants to “control the process”. The first has “character” which the second lacks. Lastly I should stress that the “faith” does not seem to be encouraged by constant flattery and “participation trophies”, but rather by the actual experience of ups and downs, accompanied by the security of knowing they are watched over by people who will help if asked.
At this point I likely should come completely out of the closet and return to the point I made earlier, when I stated I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done. Furthermore He is not done; He is still doing, and will help if asked.
While it may be politically incorrect in the minds of some to say so, I’ll conclude by stating this: Children are very small and helpless, playing under a Sky that is giant and can be merciless, yet they often play as if with a close friend, whom they trust more than any mortal. As a “Child Care Professional”, I often just stand back and watch “the process” in awe.
Sadly, though I offer a beautiful witness, Silicon Valley does not want to hear me. Google has in some ways “disappeared” me from its search engine. Likely their action is due to my past “Sea-ice” posts, which dare to point out certain Alarmist “proofs”, (that Global Warming is a threat), are failing to manifest in the predicted manner. This makes me a “denier”, and Google apparently feels this justifies their basically enacting a childish censorship, tantamount to the children at my Childcare shouting, “La-la-la! I’m not listening!”
This is sad because Google was formerly the best search engine, but now they are choosing to make their engine malfunction. They soon will be surpassed by another, for even a competitor slow as a turtle can pass a rabbit, if the rabbit lays down on the job.
I am not particularly hurt by Google’s disdain. I’ve been an obscure poet all my life, so obscurity is a landscape I’m familiar with. I don’t feel “marginalized”, for I’ve experienced margins are important and “part of the process”. Even if Google seeks to bully me with the power of a trillion grasshoppers, I am not a victim. I am a beneficiary. Why? Because I am in touch with the Thing that made Okies great, while Google, (the Okies who became great), have lost their grip, and may well be like a trillion grasshoppers soon to become extinct.
What has this to do with gardening?
Despite the fact nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong, for a while last spring, I found myself possessing a peculiar confidence. I think I may have had symptoms of what some Christians call “Blessed Assurance”. Rather than throwing up my hands and quitting the garden, I went out to weed and salvage what I could. The results were remarkable.
In material terms the weeds may have won, in certain areas, but in the areas I salvaged, the cold and wet and muck and mud, which was bad for warmth-loving corn and squash and beans, produced a superabundance of other crops: Spinach and lettuce and two types of peas, as the potatoes grew twice as tall as last year. The actual statistics will wait for another post, but children were able to munch edible-podded peas to their heart’s content, and collect sandwich bags more to take home and munch with parents, which helps my Childcare look different from (and perhaps superior to) other Childcares.
In spiritual terms I simply became a far better weeder, for rather than being discouraged and quitting, I kept weeding. My attitude was adjusted. It is difficult to say why. It was as if it occurred to me that, if parents would pay good money to see their kids go back-to-nature, then maybe I should go back-to-nature as well. If it benefits the kids, it should benefit me. And yes, it did. Even before the material superabundance began to manifest, I was reaping a crop of tranquility.
There is something about this tranquility that utterly eludes the mindset of the socialist, and also the small brains of the more greed-centered capitalist. It involves the awareness that a farmer is basically an ant, compared to the Creator who actually controls. Rather than control farmers are to some degree resigned to being “part of a process”. Where some like to think they are in control of power, and money, and even the climate, this tranquility concedes we actually have all the power of a three-year-old child walking a summer evening’s lawn wearing pajamas with feet.
Once again summer holiday’s big sky Presses down warmth with joys I sought to take Prisoner, when as a boy I would fly Out classroom windows and into an ache Made of pearling clouds. What a sweet wonder It was to no longer see teacher’s scold And instead see schools locked. What sweet thunder Spoke from clouds, as birdsong made me bold With cascading choruses, as with arms Swinging I walked fleet and, daily taking Cliff-climbing chances, hunted bee-drone charms That beamed from big sky to heal heart’s aching. It mattered not to young fishers like me That I was the prisoner in love to be free.
Once I adopted my “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” attitude, I was astonished by the way my garden improved. If you demand perfection you become so upset by the lack of it that you throw up your hands in despair and stop weeding, but if you are resigned to failure, and only weed because you feel closer to God in a garden, you keep weeding. Very soon the perfectionist’s garden is choked by weeds, while the failure’s garden starts to look much better.
Also getting out and weeding seemed better for my health than staying home and ventilating the frustrations of a perfectionist, by raving on my blog. Although I was initially weakened by my summer cold, and so sensitive to pollen I weeded with a third of the speed of a grandmother, my lungs improved, my health returned, and I got a good tan, (which enabled me to avoid feeling defensive about “white privilege”, and thus likely increased my psychological sense of well-being). Although I posted nothing, (and suppose caused some at Google deep concern by giving them nothing to censor), I began putting on weight for the first time in over a year, as I learned how to use my new, fake teeth.
I felt I had stumbled upon an answer. Because I was less focused on results, the results were far better. The difference was this: Formerly, when I focused on weeding a long row of potatoes, I gritted my teeth and endured the job in a stoic manner, and at the end of the row was basically exhausted, but gained the small satisfaction of a check-on-my-list. But when I did not focus on the end of the row, and just weeded for the joy of being outdoors and in the sun, I did not grit my teeth, and wasn’t stoic, and needed no check-on-my-list. Consequently I weeded far more with less effort, and was much happier, at first because I was deriving joy from the process and not the results, and secondly because unexpectedly the results were obviously better.
Admittedly some of the ways I de-emphasized my results did reduced my production, and were largely motivated by the fact I initially disliked weeding. I doubt my ancestors approved. But they had ten children and were allowed to whip them if they didn’t weed. Lacking such advantages, one thing I did was to plant my rows far apart, so I could just run my rotor-tiller between the rows. The land might have produced more if I had my rows closer together, but that would have involved more hand-weeding. I still had to hand-weed around individual plants, but it was wonderfully satisfying to have long brown strips of weedless soil between my rows, looking like I’d hand-weeded for hours, when in fact I’d merely walked behind my puttering rotor-tiller fifteen minutes.
I also didn’t need to hand-weed around individual plants so much because, after I initially tilled he soil, I unrolled long, black strips of stuff I call “weeder-fabric”, and then cut little notches or slices in it to plant my seeds. The stuff was expensive, but so is hiring people to weed. The fabric lets the rain through, and you don’t have to whip it to make it work.
Between these two examples of my laziness as a weeder, and the fact I was finding far more joy in weeding when I weeded, the weeding-war became quite surprisingly serene. I was even considering changing the title of this post. The peak of this serenity involved a comment from my wife.
At this point I should mention I was so in love with my wife, when we first met, that I neglected to get her to sign a prenuptial agreement involving weeding. Nor can I whip her, for it turned out she knows karate. Therefore she never weeds. Somehow she still has, occasionally, the nerve to suggest that a weedy garden reflects badly on our Childcare, the same way she suggests an unmown lawn reflects badly on our Childcare (though she never mows). Consequently I tend to be touchy about the entire subject of weeds.
I can be content in my garden, communing with God, but when I see her approach I abruptly bristle with defensiveness. A man must chose his battles, and even if he says “yes dear” to his wife 90% of the time, there comes a time a husband must stand his ground, even if his wife wife knows karate. But a month ago my wife blind-sided me by saying something I never expected. With a look of disbelief and even confusion she gazed over my garden and murmured, “Your garden actually looks good.”
So of course I immediately became hugely cocky, which is something you should never do, with a farm. One must never forget they are involved in a war. But such a sense of serenity decended upon me that I did what in Kansas they call “slack off.” I forgot I am not in control, and felt I had things “under control”, and became, in my own small way, a “socialist”.
Three social events that have nothing to do with weeding occurred simultaneously. First was a family event called “Strawberry Weekend”, which among some family members seems to be as important as Christmas. The second was a reunion with my older siblings. And third was my middle son’s wife going into labor with her first child, two weeks before her due-date.
I am aware my excellent use of foreshadowing has made you aware that the coyotes were lurking in the woods, eyeing my chickens and just waiting for me to drop my guard. However please indulge an old man, and allow me a moment of weakness. Though I am well aware there is no such thing as “vacation” for a farmer in the summer, I agreed to have our staff cover for me at our Childcare and to feed my goats and chickens, as I spent a day and an overnight reminiscing with my siblings at a motel on the coast. My Puritan ancestors likely all rolled in their graves. Even though, as good Christians, they may not have weeded on The Day Of Rest, I am fairly certain they came home from church and sat on their porches, watching the corn grow with their shotguns across their knees.
I first became aware things were not going to go as planned when my wife, who ordinarily is far more businesslike than I am, vanished from the Childcare. I received a slightly garbled text on my cell-phone, attempting to be businesslike about rescheduling so she could drive to Maine. My daughter-in-law was in labor.
While my wife insists I was very helpful, when I was present as my second two sons were born, in all honesty I confess I have never felt so helpless. Responsible, yes. Helpful, no. In any case I had no desire to again be a cheerleader, and remained behind to hold the fort at the Childcare. In theory. In fact I was distracted and did a lot of nervous pacing. My staff did a great job covering for me, and even the children seemed understanding. The older children remembered my daughter-in-law from when she worked for us one summer, and I think they explained things to the littler ones. Even midst my distraction I noted a lot of whispering going on. This left me free to seek outlets for my nervous energy.
One thing I did was get down on my knees, which seemed a good place to be when one you care for is in labor. And then I weeded. It’s amazing how much weeding you can get done when full of nervous energy. As my granddaughter was born countless weeds died terrible deaths.
It likely seems unsentimental to say so, but it seemed to me that, if one insists upon being a nervous wreck, one might as well put the energy to good use and get some weeding done. And as I thought my pragmatic thought I imagined all my Puritan ancestors in heaven were nodding.
Glancing around, I noticed the final children were leaving and my staff was wrapping things up. My cellphone had alerted me to the fact all had gone well. I stood up and stretched, and contemplated what sane, sensible and pragmatic deed I might do next. Then I got in my car and drove through rush-hour traffic up to Portland, Maine, to spend not much more than fifteen minutes admiring the mother and child and new father, and then drove empty roads far more swiftly back down to New Hampshire, arriving home a little after midnight
It was time well spent. For one thing, it was great to step into the bubble of joy eminating from a young couple becoming a family. Though my son spoke of the awesome responsibility he felt, his eyes were soft and dreamy. His wife was exalted by the relief from pain, and the escape from danger, and the triumph, and the wonder of the new life she held in her arms.
Not that I’d particularly care to be in their shoes. Youth thirsts to climb mountains I feel no need to climb. But as I entered their bubble I remembered childbirth is like an island of joy in a sea of troubles.
I became very serene as I drove home through one of the longest and latest twilights of the year. I was thinking I was towards the end of a journey my son is just beginning. In some senses I’m handing the baton on to a new generation who will continue the race. Though the labor of childbirth is over, a new labor is just beginning for my son, but perhaps is ending for me, and perhaps I am upon an island of joy all my own.
For some reason my son asked me to dredge up the words to a song I used to strum on the back porch after long work-days, when he was just a boy. As I drove the words came back to me, and I began singing it:
Somewhere high above this little Valley where I earn my living Is a world that’s so forgiving, But I cannot go. I have a row to hoe.
How I wish I could go up there. Climb that mountain. Breathe that air. Hear those angels make their music But I cannot go. I have a row to hoe.
I have children; they need raising; Some days scolding; some days praising; Although I’d rather be lazing Where I cannot go Until my children grow.
How I wish I could go up there Climb that mountain. Breathe that air. Hear those angels make their music But I cannot go Until my children grow.
Years will pass. It’s no use countin’. Some day all must climb that mountain. Stand where love is like a fountain That forever flows Fragrant as a rose.
Then at last we’ll all be up there On that mountain. Breathe that air. Hear those angels make that music That forever flows Fragrant as a rose. (circa 1996)
My sense of humor began to kick in as I left the highway and drove the summer streets close to home, where the stray cats always look surprised to see anyone out driving so late. My own serenity amused me, for, while I suppose I could drop dead tomorrow, if I really felt I was at the end I wouldn’t have planted a garden last spring. All the same, I did not complain about the peace I felt. As I got out of my car at home home and paused to heed the distant coyotes yipping and caterwauling (more clever foreshadowing) I decided islands of joy in seas of trouble were good things, for otherwise how should we ever cross the seas?
I lack the lust and yearning ambition I once had, yet now hear peace’s sweetness. Not that I sit in my armchair wishing To never arise, but a completeness Blesses my life. I watch the young hurry To start families; see woman wince in labor And then sigh with babe in arms; then worry With husbands at bills; debate a neighbor About fences or a salesman over price, And I have no yearning to again start Such projects. Sometimes it just plain feels nice To be done, and own a quiet heart. This sunrise seems to be one of those days. My lone desire’s to hum my Lord praise.