Climate Change and Divorce Court

As you might have heard, this part of the country has been experiencing a very mild winter.  I’m good with that.  I don’t miss the high heating bills, treacherous driving and all-around pain of winter.

When you live in a place like Minnesota, you can only get so worked up about global warming.  It’s the one natural disaster that kind of works in your favor, for a change.  Let the millionaires in Tempe sizzle in their desert compounds, and the trendy clubs in South Beach get flooded.  All I know is that it’s February and I’m wearing a light jacket!

But winter is hard-wired into the Minnesota psyche, and I’m not sure most of the folks here can survive without it.  The lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures are exacting a toll that ice, snow, and cold never did.

The kids can’t go out and skate or slide down a hill.  I did see some kids attempt a game of hockey at the local park, and they had to compensate by moving the goal on one end in about 15 feet because there was grass sticking up on that end.  They also had to skate around a clump of dirt that stuck up mid-rink.

But for the most part they have turned into little Facebook hermits, hanging around the house all day.  This means Mom has some real looooooong days with the kinderfolk.  But the species that suffers the most from our lack of winter is the middle-aged paired male, otherwise known as the hubby.

The reason for his distress is that this year, ice fishing sucks.  To understand the true impact of this, you have to know the history of ice fishing.

This part of the country was settled mainly by Scandinavian immigrants.  If you can imagine historical conditions, we can picture Lars and Helga in their one-room prairie cabin.  It gets dark at 4:00 p.m.   That doesn’t really matter, because the snow has drifted over the windows anyhow.  Besides, it’s -25 degrees out.

Assuming that married couples then had about the same emotional make-up as couples do now, the first visitor to knock on their door in the spring is going to find one of two things:  A new addition to the family, or two skeletons with their hands around each others throats.  I’m guessing the mix was about 50/50

These immigrants had a very Protestant, church-based society, so to stem the tide of domestic murders Swedish theologians invented ice fishing.

This allowed a relief valve on the marital boiler, so to speak.  The men could congregate in small, rough-hewn ice shacks and once again feel they ran at least a small part of their world.  They could drink and tell their friends about what a miserable woman Helga had turned into.  But after catching a few fish and downing a few cases of beer, maybe it wasn’t so bad.  Maybe they didn’t need to smother her with a pillow while she slept, at least not until next week.

And as for Helga, well, that smelly, good-for-nothing was finally out from underfoot for a while, and she could just sit and do nothing for a minute, maybe write a long letter to the old country telling them how miserable her life was.  But after having a chance to relax and decompress for a bit, maybe she wouldn’t have to brain Lars with a frying pan when he came through the door.  She always knew he’d be easier to kill when he was drunk, but he’ll be drunk again soon enough.   She’ll let him by this time.

So ice fishing saved their society.  Families were raised, the area was populated, and Minnesota became a state.  The rest is history.

And it was only able to happen because of ice fishing.  But without that option this year, I’m guessing the only people who are going to catch their limit are the marriage counselors and divorce lawyers.



Where Have All The Storytellers Gone?

I was just watching my local news, which is largely a rehash of what their interns find on the Internet.  I think all they do is the occasional live shot of an accident or other non-controversial “breaking” news to justify their expenditure in their satellite truck.

I could go to the website of any news aggregator like Google News or Yahoo and whip out a news broadcast for them in about 5 minutes.  Which is, I believe, about the amount of time they spend in producing the half-hour program.

Like any other form of communication, journalism relies on story.  But we don’t seem to be able to tell them anymore.  I think commercials do a better sense of conveying a story today than most news organizations do.  In 30 to 60 seconds VW can tell me a story about a dog who is too fat to fit through his dog-door and exercises so he can chase the new and improved VW offering.

I think the worst example of missing the story was something I read last week about a doctor who had opened an ice cream shop in St. Paul.  Even though he lived in California now, the reporter told us that he had “grown up in St. Paul and still had ties there, because he was the son of a local Catholic priest”

I think there’s a story in there somewhere!

What Can You Harness?

I saw this TED talk awhile back, but recently ran across it again and thought it worthy of comment:

You have to admire not only the young man’s resourcefulness, but something much deeper than that.  Facing obstacles that most of us couldn’t even imagine, he did the only thing that has ever worked, since time began.

He got off his butt and did something.

That’s the point at which most of us fall short.  I know I do.  We like to bitch and complain about problems that we don’t have a solution for, and we can do that pretty eloquently.  When we’ve expended enough energy and time doing that, then we feel justified in saying we don’t have time or energy to come up with a solution.

But sometimes you just need to shut up and head down to the junkpile and see what you have laying around that you can use to fix things up a bit.

Unless you have fewer resources than William did, you don’t really have an excuse.


Withdrawal Symptoms

Maybe it’s just my own microscopic view of the various blogs and sites I follow, but I get the definite impression that things are a little slow right now.  People don’t seem to post as often, and I know I haven’t either.  Maybe I’m just projecting my own behavior onto others.

Life gets busy, and there’s always something more pressing to do than write or paint or whatever it is people do to express themselves and let others know we exist.  But we need to fight this tendency to withdraw into a safe, familiar, “housekeeping” kind of life.

I think we need to put ourselves out there amongst our fellow creatures, as painful as that task can be, because if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize, it is that all life happens through other people.  Like it or not.

Your stuff, your house, and all the various “things” that we let occupy our lives with busywork don’t help us grow.  Only by interacting as much as possible with others do we really grow.  This isn’t always easy, or pleasant, but if we want to stay open to life and not shut off the flow, we need to connect to the tap, so to speak.  And that is other critters, of all descriptions and temperaments.

We need time to ourselves as well, to process things.  But we can’t get stuck in our own self-referential loop.

I think there’s a quote in the Bible that says something about “as iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens man”.  We need to rub up against the pleasant and not-so-pleasant among us.

So it’s time to see if the cutting edge has any rust on it.  If it does, get out there and hone it back to a keen edge.

Primitive Joy

I’ve recently started in with a new hobby – woodcarving.  I went to some woodworking/carving shows this fall and was kind of inspired by what I saw.  Thanks to this area having a strong Scandinavian heritage, there are a large number of self-described “Norwegian termites” chipping and carving away at things that would have made their Viking forebears proud.

I’m still in the starter-kit stage, but amazingly I still have all my fingers and I find it to be somewhat absorbing.  It’s the kind of thing that draws you in, just you, the tools, and what you are working on……no power required, no downloads to be installed, just working with your hands at a task that humans have done since somebody fashioned something out of a fallen tree branch with a sharpened piece of flint.

Being drawn into concentration is a good antidote to our distracted way of living.  I tried my hand at making some things in a fully-equipped woodshop for a spell, but didn’t really enjoy it.  Most of the skill is involved in setting up the equipment to the correct measurements, actually running the material through is almost an afterthought.  Plus the various powered tools are loud, dusty, and just aching to take off a finger or your entire hand if you aren’t careful.

So I guess it is the simple, primitive aspect of carving I enjoy.  Who knows, maybe I’ll move on to cave-painting or making flint arrowheads!.  Seemed to work for the Neanderthals, so maybe there’s something to be said for it.