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Planets and Civilizations 30/04/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, History, Mundane, Photography.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Much of the garden is in the ground — at least in the form of seeds — even though the average last-frost date is still a week away. Even at sunup (yay!) yesterday, as I set out to explore and photograph along the Mississippi, there was visible frost on some roofs and an invisible slick coating on our deck.


(Can you spot the fourth-quarter Moon? Hint: The tree leaning right is pointing to it.)

And in the past week the weather has at last met expectations for the season: overall cool and wet. 

Yes, I am well aware of reports of ongoing global warming trends, but that doesn’t mean warmer weather everywhere all the time. That’s why I abhor the term “global warming,” preferring instead “climate disruption.” (Here’s a state-by-state summary of preparedness for its effects.)  

The backyard precipitation gauge this past week recorded very nearly three inches of rain over a five-day siege. I watched the soil temperature gauge drop by almost ten degrees during that spell.

There has been enough intermittent warmth to bring out many blossoms on the cherry and one of the pear trees, and a few on the lilac bush. Ah, spring.

Among the good news: A second water barrel with a hose to distribute the overflow is now in place. It used to be in what used to be the community garden: the small triangle of land, formerly county-owned, that was bought last fall by the owner of the adjacent storage building. The couple who contributed it didn’t want it back; in fact, he made a strange comment to me, that around here we don’t need to be concerned about having enough rainfall. Short memory, I guess.

I also put in some serious labor, digging out a lot of creeping charlie (alias ground ivy, alias gill-over-the-ground, alias field balm; Glecoma hederacea). It got well established in the area occupied by the big elm tree, until 2012. But it’s time for something else: nitrogen-fixing white clover.

Putting onion sets (young onion plants) into the soil brought to mind a mystery — eventually solved — that occurred a few years ago about this time. The period had been about as wet as this week has been. Near the beginning of that wet spell, I’d put the onions in the ground, only to find, next morning, many of the plants flat on the ground — though with no evidence of having been chewed. I put them back in their places, only to find many back on the ground again . . . and again. What the . . . ? 

At last the idea came to stand watch at dusk, flashlight in hand. Before long, a peculiar squishy sound was coming from that area. The flashlight’s beam revealed a veritable convention of earthworms writhing (mating??), and it was evident that many had reached the surface by following the holes in which the onions were sitting: It seemed the worms were in effect pushing the onions out of the ground. Weird.

An occasional area of climate research — volcanic events — has led to a couple of particularly vivid books: Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, David Keys,1999; and Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World, Alexandra Witze & Jeff Kanipe, 2014.

And they lead of course into intriguing astrological investigations, and questions of prospects for any such events in the foreseeable future.

The first details historical evidence of civilizational collapses — including the Roman and Chinese empires — that followed a vast explosion that the author has narrowed down to February 535 and probably to the region between the islands of Sumatra and Java (modern Indonesia). The major planetary configuration of that year was the rare opposition of Saturn and Uranus to Neptune — the three biggest planets in our solar system after Jupiter. In addition, the Full Moon of that month was closely aligned with all three planets.

That was a lot of gravitational force, a great tug of war. No wonder Earth exploded.

Bandung eruption 535

Mr. Keys summarizes the fallout:

Key aspects of change, while ultimately triggered by a force of nature, were finally delivered through a plethora of consequent ecological, political, epidemiological, economic, religious, demographic and other mechanisms that interacted with each other for up to a hundred event-filled years before producing final, irreversible change.

Whew! It seems fortunate that such events (and overlapping indicative if not causative planetary cycles) are rare.

The event detailed in Witze and Kanipe’s book — the eruption of Laki in Iceland in 1783 — produced great misery on the island and across much of Europe, but not worldwide. Even so, the effects likely contributed to notable political instability, most famously the French Revolution. Again, the Saturn-Uranus cycle was “active”: the opposition phase, thus with Earth in between. But Jupiter (the largest planet) was only twenty-one degrees away from Saturn when the eruption started. Again, an unusual amount of planetary gravitational force.

Laki eruption 1783

While a much more extensive investigation of major volcanic events would be useful, a likely pattern is opposition involving at least two of the large outer planets. Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately for devotees of the idea of imminent human extinction — such a configuration is more than a few years away: 2030-31, when Jupiter will oppose Saturn and Uranus.

Something to look forward to.



Hard Rains 09/11/2015

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, Long Emergency, permaculture, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It was yet another gloriously sunny, mild day–well-suited to starting the process of finding my roots again. After just a few hours sleep, some mysterious internal switch flicked on with a message: time to get outside in the first light, while the sliver of waning Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (lowest to highest) could afford a celestial greeting.

And so I got to work, hauling, two at a time, about fifteen tall brown-paper bags stuffed with dry leaves  from a few doors down the alley. No sense in letting them disappear when I can use them for compost and winter insulation on garden beds.

There was no hurry in the cool but far from frosty air. It was good, helpful even, to look around at the silhouettes of trees, their forms bared by the winds and shorter days of my week away. It was necessary to let thoughts, recollections, images from my sojourn float through consciousness.

Some were of natural wonder from the gardens of the Smithsonian:


Others were of the nutritional wisdom contained in the three sisters (maize, beans and squash) growing outside the National Museum of the American Indian:


Some were of the ongoing overlording presence of national governments over the affairs of indigenous affairs, represented in the Capitol dome shrouded in scaffolding:


Some were of the marvels of aquatic gardens, viewed from dry land:



But it was difficult to shake off remembrance of more disturbing images, mostly from the Newseum. The section of the Berlin Wall and the reconstructed watchtower topped with searchlight: all white, for contrast with any would-be escapee from the East, the easier for gunning down. The rooms on the U.S. civil rights struggle, its vicious side and, yes, its decency and courage. The 9/11 area, with its twisted section of broadcast antenna from one of the World Trade Towers, and the wrecked cameras of the photographer who ran toward trouble that terrible morning. In another area, the tall wall nearly covered with photographs of journalists whose dedication has cost them their lives. The room with walls covered with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, nearly all of them of tragedies: of accidents, firefights, executions.

Where’s the good news? And where are any latter-day stories about the compromises, the coverups, the failures of fat-cat corporate news? Not at the Newseum. It’s all yesterdays’ sorrows and sacrifices. There wasn’t the slightest hint of anything as truly ugly as the story within the documentary “Truth.”

The motto there is: There’s more to every story. 

Indeed there is.

More and more, in this new age of climate chaos, there’s literal meaning in Bob Dylan’s timeless phrase: “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” And more and more, displaced people are on the move: from submerging islands, from Bangladesh, soon from Florida (if not already).

On top of drought and war effects in the Middle East, strange rains are hitting as well.

Two tropical cyclones within a week — unprecedented — affected Yemen and islands offshore. And rare heavy rainstorms inundated parts of Iraq, where water supplies, sanitation and availability of electricity have been undermined by decades of war and economic sanctions. And where millennia of deforestation have fundamentally altered the landscape and its ability to absorb, contain and ultimately use rare excess moisture.

(These are prime candidates for permaculture practices, at small scale, in some pockets apart from the surges of war and streams of refugees. See “The Greening of the Desert.”)

(Both these weather stories popped up on Rice Farmer’s blog.)

These are freak events, but certainly some freakish events could be anticipated by any reasonably competent astro-meteorologist noting the relevant seasonal and lunation charts for the region of the Arabian peninsula.

The potential — the likelihood at some point — is rather obvious: The water sign Pisces on the crucial lower meridian, along with Neptune therein: oceanic Neptune associated especially with flooding.


The core indication simply needed a cosmic trigger: October’s Full Moon. That was the period when the Venus-Mars-Jupiter cluster (in opposition to Neptune) was tightest: within only three degrees of longitude. Crossing the upper meridian of the season chart. And upon the horizon at Full Moon.



“Iraq was hit by multiple days of heavy rain that, when combined with the country’s aging infrastructure, caused major flooding in Baghdad and other areas, resulting in deaths and health problems. In areas of Baghdad where infrastructure is decrepit, streets and houses were flooded with rainwater and sewage. Some areas are still flooded despite days of clear weather following the rains.” – International Business Times

Alas, the ecological and social fabrics were already shredded. And once either or both are allowed to fray, collapse is what follows. Increasingly under weather events. (Watch what happens with South Carolina.)

Hard rains indeed.


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