February 16th, 2006



No snow yet. In fact, no clouds remain. There's nothing but thin haze and cold, cold air. It the plants that began budding or blooming a few days ago had LiveJournals, they'd all be posting WTF!!!? this morning. Then they'd die.

Speaking of dying:
"In one short week, what hath not death wrought? What desolation! What crushing of fond hopes! What agonizing grief! Thrice the blow has fallen on bleeding hearts, and thrice the Reaper has bidden a fire-side flower to the garden of God, and the harvest-home of Heaven. First, the prattling boy, then the nestling babe, then the eldest born. 'Lovely and pleasant their lives, in death they were not divided.'"
That is from a death notice published in 1853 by a mother, three of whose children had just died of scarlet fever. It was quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, about this aspect of which (the book's references to the high rates of childhood mortality so much part of 19th century life) a lengthy post has been made by callimachus at the weblog Done With Mirrors.

(Edit: A comment from callimachus reveals that the quote above was not taken from Goodwin's book, but from one he himself wrote six years ago.)

Though indicating that he's not particularly impressed by the book itself, callimachus has been sufficiently impressed by this aspect of the book to have written this long piece about what he says "... keeps punching through her thesis... to almost wrest control of the narrative." I found the post well worth reading, if grim. A horrified fascination with the appalling frequency of childhood mortality in earlier times is, I think, something that lurks in most of us who have any awareness of history at all. The conditions continue today in many parts of the world, of course, but modern circumstances make it possible to imagine an end to the tragedy. In the 19th century, it was simply the way things were. Thus, callimachus speculates on the effect this reality must have had on the values and beliefs of people of Lincoln's day. It's a reminder of how much the world has changed in so short a time, and how uncomfortably near our own that time is.


Shortly after sunset, I rushed out of the house to look at the sky because I had heard the cloud call of a migrating bird. It sounded as though it had been directly above the house and flying very low. I heard it call a couple more times before I got out, and once, more faintly, after I was outside, but the bird (or birds) had already passed out of sight behind the trees to the north. I was hoping to get a close view, while there was still light in the sky, as the larger birds usually pass over at night or fly too high to be easily seen. No luck again.

I saw quite a few birds this morning, but they were the garden varieties, and did they sound annoyed! They weren't expecting the sudden cold spell, and were loudly letting the world hear their complaints. They'll be lucky if they don't get snowed on by Saturday. So far, the clouds are keeping their distance, the tumbled masses crowding the mountains or hovering over the valley, and leaving the ridge clear. Though we had much sunlight, it failed to warm the air very much. There was one hardy (or foolhardy) bee buzzing around the plants in my front yard this afternoon. I doubt if she found much to gather. The flowers were closed up tight against the cold.

I just noticed on the LJ web update page that it now autosaves your draft every few seconds, as you write. That's handy. I wonder how long it stores the drafts? If a storm knocks out my power and I can't get back for two days, will it still be here? I hope I don't ever have to find out the hard way.