Why presidential hopefuls brave the ice and snow

Its first-in-the-nation presidential primary has the Live-Free-or-Die state in the headlines these days. We want to meet and evaluate them all. It ain’t always easy.

The state’s presidential primary originated in Town Meeting Day, which is traditionally conducted on the second Tuesday in March each year. Since everybody had already come out for this unique form of grassroots democracy, it made sense to add one more item to the warrant, as the agenda is called, rather than make yet another trip to the town hall. (Besides, being winter, we’d have to heat it.) As other states have tried to jump into the spotlight, the presidential part has moved forward on the calendar. Theirs, though, don’t have organic roots like ours.

Contrary to what some candidates label their appearances, a real Town Meeting is not a political lecture or Q&A opportunity but rather a community session for debating and then voting on local government decisions for the year. Everyone can speak up and be heard. The town and school budgets are major considerations.

Now for some other perspectives on the Granite State:

  1. New Hampshire is bigger than it looks on the map. Rotate it 90 degrees and you’ll see it’s larger than Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. It’s slightly smaller than Vermont. When water is included, Massachusetts and Hawaii jump ahead.
  2. Small-business owners comprise 96 percent of the employers in the state.
  3. An estimated 87,000 residents, mostly in the southern tier, commute to jobs in Massachusetts.
  4. It’s the only state where seatbelts are not required and one of only a handful where motorcycle helmets are not mandatory.
  5. The state has no income or sales tax. Property taxes make up much of the difference.
  6. The state ranks dead last in its support of secondary education.
  7. New Hampshire has the longest running state lottery in the continental U.S. Originally, the numbers were not drawn at random but based on results from the Rockingham racetrack.
  8. Dover, settled in 1623, is the nation’s seventh-oldest permanent community.
  9. The first potato crop in America was planted in 1719 by Scots-Irish immigrants in Nutfield (now part of Manchester).
  10. Although the state has only 18 miles of ocean frontage, the 6,000-acre Great Bay 10 miles inland is one of the largest estuaries along the Atlantic coast. It’s crucial for sustaining fish populations in the ocean.

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Ever been to the Granite State? What can you add to the list?

On thin ice

Contrary to the petroleum-industry pawns in public office, there’s no shortage of evidence of global warming – or climatic instability, to be more precise.

In the 20 years I’ve lived and gardened where I do, we’ve moved a whole growing zone ahead – out of 11. In effect, we’ve gained two full frost-free months.

For perspective, consider a friend who recently moved to town. He took cuttings of one shrub in his new yard to the local nursery and asked what he could do to assure their flowering next year.

Nothing, he was told. Our weather’s now too warm for that species to bloom.

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Which brings me to January.

It’s typically the coldest month of the year, the one where we get subzero temps and freezing water pipes, if we’re not vigilant.

What we’re not supposed to be getting is readings up into the 60s, as we are now. Not 6 or minus 6. Sixty-three, yesterday.

We haven’t even had many single-digit numbers this season. A few in the teens.

It’s scary.

We remember the warm spell a few years ago that killed all that year’s peaches in the Northeast. Or, more accurately, the seasonally appropriate deep cold a few days later did.

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Snowfall is another matter. Usually, much of January is too cold for it to snow. Instead, we got a half-dozen inches after Christmas, then followed by a slow, misty rain, which then froze solid. The white’s still there, but you have to be careful. You walk on top of it and slide, rather than sink inches into it. It’s treacherous.

Or was until yesterday. Our neighbor was out in his shorts and a T-shirt to finish shoveling his driveway, the part that his monster snowblower couldn’t quite handle.

I was able to get out on my cross country skis a few times in December, for the first time in three or four years. But after that I didn’t dare on this stuff, there was no way to control my movement. At my age, a fall could put me in traction. Banish the thought.

Meanwhile, I hear that the ice on our lakes is too thin for the ice fishermen, who usually populate the expanses with their colorful bob houses this time of year. Nope, not so far this one. Look, there’s a whole subculture devoted to that practice, and I’d bet the majority of them keep voting for the villains. It’s insane.

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Well, the prophets of all this were poobahed back in the ’60s when their scientific projections saw it coming. And the self-interests of the oil industry have continued to decry it, shifting their stance along the way from “It’s phony” to “It’s just a normal fluctuation” to “It’s inevitable and we can’t do anything anyway.”

Doesn’t anyone else see how they’re on thin ice, just just as ignorant as the innocent polar bears caught up in their greedy blindness?

And as for the rest of us? I mean, if our temperatures here are running 20 to 40 degrees above normal, I hate to think about summer. How hot would that make it where you live? Maybe they’re hoping to rake in on our increased air-conditioning bills, too.

How about you?

I still don’t feel ‘retired’

Yes, it sounds whiny, even insensitive, but it’s true. Since taking the buyout nearly eight years ago and leaving the newsroom altogether a year later, I still have no idea of what kicking back full-time means. You know, like playing golf or sunbathing or heading for the mountains.

What it has allowed is more time to tackle projects I’ve felt are important – and more sustained focus. The fiction, especially, has gained depth in the process. Remember, in the past two years, I’ve thoroughly revised nearly all of my novels and pulled related volumes from public view.

Curiously, poetry has taken a backseat. I’m not attending readings or society meetings – the latter conflict with other obligations. Meanwhile, submissions to small-press journals and presses have ceased altogether, replaced by my blogging presentations, which I feel are far more effective in relation to the time involved. What I sometimes refer to as collecting rejection slips.

I hate to admit that despite early warnings, blogging takes up more time than I expected – and even then, I’m not reading as widely as I hoped. The WordPress Reader has tons of fine postings to always check out.

Related to blogging is the photography. I’ve always had a strong visual awareness, abetted by four years of strict art training in high school. When I launched the Red Barn at the end of 2011, I expected it to be fully text-driven, but you can see how far we’ve moved away from that. I’m still at a point-and-shoot rather than technically precise attitude – last thing I need is another obsession – but I am proud of much of what I’ve collected and shared.

Quaker picked up with service on the New England Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Counsel committee and its deliberations throughout the year, but my anticipated daily early morning meditation and yoga haven’t materialized. Frankly, Quaker could become a full-time but unpaid job all its own.

Instead, the daily swimming at the indoor pool has been giving me a cardio workout and a half-hour for clearing my head, and my early-morning Spanish drills just may come in useful if I ever travel to fellow members of the Iglesia de los Amigos in Cuba. The language itself is harder than I remember it being in high school.

Well, I wasn’t planning on being a member of a solid choir, either, or of finally self-publishing as I have at Smashwords. In today’s literary scene, getting a book out is only the beginning of the labor – promotion and marketing, for all but the best-selling authors, is a task left to the creator. It’s a common lament.

Should I mention falling way behind in household chores, gardening tasks, and general maintenance?

On reflection, I still don’t know how I managed all I did while I was still duly employed.

So here we are, beginning year No. 8 at the Red Barn. Let’s see what really happens ahead.

And now, for a peek ahead

Hard to believe I’m starting my eighth year of blogging here already. A lot has happened in my own life in that time, of course – much of it reflected in the postings and in the evolution of the blog itself.

Each year, there’s a slightly new tack at the Red Barn and its related blogs. The merry-go-round has lost some of its categories, for one thing. Gone are fresh entries reflecting Newspaper Traditions – I’ve been out of the trade too long and am viewing the current, sorry business woes from the outside these days. Likewise, my Poetry and Poetry Footnotes have moved over to free weekly releases at my Thistle Finch imprint. The Quaker Practice postings have their own blog at As Light Is Sown and, to a lesser extent, at Chicken Farmer I Still Love You, which is presenting personal finance exercises and insights. Even the Home & Garden and American Affairs entries have slowed down.

In their place has come an increased reliance on the topics stirred up by my eight novels, which are available as ebooks from Smashwords and its allied digital retailers. That will continue this year.

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Here at the Red Barn, you’ll be seeing two new features.

Each Monday, the Trail Markers category will hit the road to present a vanity license plate found in our corner of the world. Some of them are quite amusing or imaginative.

And Home & Garden will let our two rabbits, Salty and Pepper, stick their noses in on alternate Wednesdays. What is it about pets, anyway?

The weekly Tendrils will be looking mostly at topics related to the novels, a trend that picked up speed last year. Building these fact sheets has been fun for me, and I hope you, too.

Cassia’s World will continue to draw on passages discarded from the final revisions of What’s Left. I’m sure glad the tone and pace of the published book veered away from these clippings, but they do help shape the evolving thinking about the characters and plot. In addition, I’ll also add some insights from the two upcoming novels about Jaya after she leaves the ashram.

The Postcards, meanwhile, will have more entries from people other than me – and a few will actually include me as the subject rather than the shooter. We’ll be looking closely at the new construction in downtown Dover as well as our explorations of Downeast Maine.

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Take a peek, too, at the four related blogs.

As Light Is Sown is launching a weekly recap of my experience of reading the Bible straight-through. As you might imagine, I take an unconventional stance in tackling this collection of seminal and often puzzling writings.

Chicken Farmer I Still Love You continues its Talking Money exercises and insights. It’s well worth the reading.

The Orphan George Chronicles will turn to a miniseries drawn from the memories of a Hodgson line in the Pacific Northwest, one far rowdier than many of its Quaker relations back east. It’s a remarkable document.

And Thistle Finch will continue with 24 free poetry chapbooks plus photo albums, broadsides, and four Quaker posters ahead.

As always, there’s room for the unexpected.

Here’s hoping you’ll be a frequent visitor and commentator!

What would you most want to see?

Meanwhile, upstairs?

Living in New England, I’ve been in rain falling at 26 degrees Fahrenheit and snow coming down at 36 F as well as mixed precip everywhere in-between.

Much of that, of course, depends on the temperature higher overhead (the case, too, with hail) or sometimes the ground-level influence of our nearby ocean.

Guess we just have to be flexible when in comes to dressing accordingly, right?

Have you ever encountered similar confounding or weird weather?