About Harold Rhenisch

www.haroldrhenisch.com

And Yet People Complain About Winter. Huh.

Why?p1450117

Isn’t it beautiful?

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Maybe they should leave the north and go home. I feel so sorry for them. They have to endure this:

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And this:

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It must be very hard. I know, for my part, it would be hard, very hard, to endure a winter that was not at 20 Below Celsius, at least one night. And in this January moon we had a week. Oh, glory!

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But, seriously, I have to listen to these complaints on the national broadcasting system of the country that I was born to and must pay allegiance to, to live here? Really? That’s shameful. Well, time to go for a walk and forgive.

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I am, after all, on this earth, to learn humility. Sometimes it’s easy.

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Sometimes it’s hard.

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Against the Descending Night, A Prayer in the Rushes

I am not angry.p1470038

I am sad.

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My elders taught me that these were cat tails. They taught me that poetry was a fairy tale.p1470033

They taught me that these were swamp weeds. They taught me that words expressed thoughts.

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I learned later that these rushes were the winter food of snow geese, who summer in Siberia, when it is like our winters here in this fjord lake valley. But that was not enough.

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I learned later that the people who are this land that has brought me to the sky built their houses out of these reeds. Why did no one tell me this? Why were they separating me from my body like that? I am nothing but this body. These rushes are my thoughts. I am them walking.  It was not enough.p1470051

I learned later that I have ancestors, far older than my elders. To them, these were not plants. There were no plants in their world. There was the sound of wind rattling the stems, calling them. It is all that I am.

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It has not been enough. There is only the world of men, I was taught forty years ago. If you do not accept their way of speaking, and I promise you I was instructed in this, then you are an outlaw and can expect the laws to be used to suppress you. I am not speaking in metaphor. This was the point of philosophy forty years ago. Men wanted to build a world that consisted only of a social network.

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And they did do that, but not for those of us who are the world, who are a rush brushing against a breast with the sound of geese leaving to overwinter on the seas of the moon. As if that were up in the sky, and not right here.

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As I grew through adulthood into middle age and then past it and became a last remnant of a lost earth, under stars most men and women have never seen, younger people began to correct me.

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They had learned well. They were very helpful. They told me that this was a wetland. Not the moon. I do not think that they were trying to kill me, the poet, the man of the rushes, but the effect was the same.

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I am not angry.p1470014

The people who lived in books told me that my ancestors were simple people, who read themselves into the land, but “we” understood reality now.p1470054

They told me that what you see in these images weren’t the sound of the cold calling through the sun and the sun answering. They told me about reality. I think they thought I knew what this stuff was. But I am not sure.p1460999

In return they were very helpful. They told me that my languages, English and German, were not languages of the world but were very useful systems of social codes and abstractions.p1470015

They were even more helpful. They told me that mathematics was true, that cold-hardened steel was true, but that spirit was not one thing or another and so not “true” because it could not be cold or hardened.

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They told me that Beauty was not a measuring device for the presence of life in a land and its people, or in a people and its land (if it’s useful to say one thing twice) but a pleasurable response designed by a force called evolution to create babies, which, to reason, which they understood, was a clever product of randomness and an elegant expression of it.

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In their world, there were no men of the rushes. But there were reasonable things.

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Where they saw wetlands, that could clean water for their cities of asphalt, steel, concrete and glass, I saw bows, arched, and water fields, and arched with them, and was arched, but it did not matter.p1410980

I did not see grazing grounds, or a lump of rock circling the earth, and that was that. They told me they did. Sometimes I suspected that they were looking at words, but I didn’t know that for sure. They did say that what I saw was “poetry,” though.p1410981

I saw the sky. I knew that much. Written in the earth.p1410989

I saw the geese were the moon flying. Written in me.p1410986

Who could I speak to of this? I live in a country in which such talk is called romance. It is not a complement. It is something to be corrected. It is also called poetry in this country. It is something to be corrected.

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There are people in this country who are called people in authority: professors, city planners, property developers; it is all the same. They come from other countries to this one. They correct me. They don’t say, “We call this a wetland.” They say it is one. When I say, your city is in the middle of my valley, and I wish it would go away, they are shocked at what they call my naiveté. I think they think I live in books, but I’m not sure.p1420291

They use the word ‘we’. I don’t. I’m sorry about that. It has caused confusion.p1420292

We the rushes, I should have said, and not cared that they don’t think they have a language for the earth that accepts its personhood. I should have said, we the children of the moon, meaning the eye of a bird in the night, and if they insisted on a stone then a stone thrown into a pool, rippling.p1420293

I kept silent. I am sorry about that.

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I did not know myself. I was deferent, as I learned from the water and the land, bending with the wind and the rain.p1420043

It’s not that I didn’t feel the energy within this body and world I am. It’s not that the rushes didn’t hold the answers to every question in the world. It did not matter.p1470001

I was well trained, and believed them when they said these things were all separate, and only the seeing of them had form, and this seeing was less than theirs and was called “poetry,” which I didn’t feel they liked much.

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I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I, of course, wanted to live among them. Some of them I even loved. Some I still do, more than myself.p1470009

Some of them, though, told me that the stuff in the image below (for example) was Nature. They told me about the seriousness of literary committees, and that there was one way of doing things, and it could be taught, and they would run the committee now, because I was talking about rushes and land and they were busy people and needed to talk about important things. Serious things. Things they could say to each other, not to rushes. I suspect they didn’t know how to talk to rushes, but I’m not sure.
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Of course they needed to talk to each other. They were young. I was too much a child of my ancestors and not enough a child of their books. I was a knot of tangled threads.

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By their pride, they taught me how to untangle that. They tried to teach me that poetry was a thing made of words, set in metres and rhythms, and even that these things could be fixed, and that poetry was not snow geese and not the waiting for snow geese and not houses made of the body by plucking its hair the way a musician plucks the strings of a lute. They taught me that men — a kind of puppet that a soul can operate in the way a robin operates an apple tree — speak this way, and that women had other things to talk about. I’m happy for them, and though at times I have wished they would have said what that was, what they needed to say, one of my friends, a woman and a philosopher, has kindly explained to me that this kind of talk is just the puppet talking and it should just be ignored. I was excited. This sounded smart and new.
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Caught in the spell of young professors of literature, one of whom even said, despite my protests, that all men hate the earth and want to destroy it, I forgot myself and tried to argue, and when I failed at that, predictably, forgot myself again and stopped writing poems for the world, even though I had had elders who taught me the old ways, even though they only cloaked them in the words of literary men, for their own protection.
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They could not protect me from my misunderstanding.

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I did not tell the important literary people, who know how things get done in their world that I cannot see, who know the traditions of how to train people, which looks like the training of horses to me, that the boat of my ribs is the lute, that I am singing with old Vaïnomoïnen, the smith of the Milky Way, here on the star road, as my people have sung since men found iron and struck it with a hammer instead of making war.p1470028

I am sorry. I should have told them. I should have said, “I do not want to make war.” I should have said, “I would like it if we loved each other.” Well, the last time I said “I do not want to make war” was the day, thirty years ago, on which I learned that many people, who call themselves poets, and I presume they know what they’re saying, want war. They delight in it, they told me.

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I am repeatedly told that as a man who speaks the words of his ancestors, I am of their kind. A tribe, they call it. No.

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I did not tell them about the mind that was a spark from the anvil of the world.

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I should have, right then. I did not tell them about the darkness that is light, the matter that is time, in the little time I have in the world before I am the world again, without time. I didn’t expect that they would understand something that is beyond understanding, and so I was silent, partly out of deference and partly to protect myself, lest I be torn from the world into words and when I turned around again there would be no world at all.p1470026

I was afraid of that, and in my fear I failed them and myself.

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But I am not sad. Sure, they would not have listened. They would not have heard. How could they? We did not share a language. But, even so, some things are not said for people. They are said for the rushes and the wind.

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I should have forgiven them easily and at once. These were, after all, people like myself, who understood war too well, whose ancestors had been driven, as mine, into its throat and had been swallowed alive, as my people were.

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After all, this land was captured by countries across the sea, not by love but by violence, and if I grew up in that violence and read it as love, and if they grew up in that violence and read it as my own, why should I be bitter? I am not.

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I am joyful. I catch the sun. I am not sad because of that. I shake my stems in the wind. It is a small gesture, I know, but it follows the winds of time, just so. Just so.

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I have found myself at last, just so. I am weaving the sun and the earth together, not because they are not already there, but because I love them.p1470030

Because I hear them speaking.
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This speech is not in words.

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(Well, unless you will accept that these are words, which is generous and bold of you.)

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Is that too much to ask? I don’t know.

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I don’t know how it is among you.

 

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I think sometimes you do.

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I think of the children, often. I think of the poets among the children. Those who have not found their voice in the world yet. Those few who run their fingers along a blade of a sound and feel the foundations of a house, the stretch of a thought, the music of a heart lifting as a snow goose on its way to the Siberia, where it speaks the language of ice with all that is.

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With all that it is possible to be.

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These are the wings.

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Listeners, please, if you think I am making a poem, then I have not used my words well. Here, this is a poem:p1470041

Please read it again and again and again. Don’t look to me. I am just a rush speaking the wind. I am just the wind, speaking a rush. I do not mean poetry by that. That is something we were all taught.p1470042

That term is something I have lost. I don’t need to go looking for it.  I do not need to put one word on top of another word on top of another word until they make an image of the world.

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Nothing’s lost, but things are found. I am already here.
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I have always been here. I don’t need science to do this for me, either. That was for people trying to escape a war, and that’s a fine thing.

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There was a time I was a child in a school. I was being taught that one form of literature, science, is true in the world, and all others are entertainments, which can be studied by science and then, observed and classified, would be true, as they had not been before. I was not taught about the smith who sailed the boat of his ribs down the Milky Way. I found him on my own. I walked outside. I breathed.p1470045

Please, forgive me for reminding you here of what might sound strange to you. Breath means the world to me. This is not poetry, I should add. It is the world speaking. What goes by that name today — poetry — is a dark magic, but it is not the world, or me, or speech, or, I suspect, you, and the words it uses are not the words of my language, or, most likely, yours. They look the same, yes. These words I write here, and you read, though, are not the words of my language. If you sense any poetry here, perhaps I have managed to move myself just enough out of the way that you can feel the rushes brushing against your cheek, and … can you smell them, too?

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I can. They smell of dry water. It’s hard to explain. But why shouldn’t it be. Explanation is a game of words and this is not words or a game. This is the world.p1470085

I love the body of you.

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Don’t you? My brothers and sisters, the wind has been waking into the sound of rushes. That’s all. It has taken some time.p1420293

It has been growing into itself to find you. I was born knowing this. I have been remembering before it is so late that I am no I at all.

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I apologize for the delay. I was born to people who made a hammer out of the language of my ancestors, that spoke the sound of a goose’s wing, that came from the lungs, and because I loved them I believed them. That is the right way to enter the world.
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But now I am the elder. I can let those old stories go.

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I can let them go to Siberia.

p1420352I can follow them.

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I am the elder to no-one’s children, not even my own. I know that. I write for the rushes, as I always have, because that is what they have heard as they have written me. I dare not stop. Do you?p1420344

Whatever children may follow, they might have need of the language of the earth. They might find each other on its paths. I don’t know. I pray they will. I know only that night is coming. The machines are coming for us. They will live in our place. We the rushes will be the silent dead.

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Young men write language for the machines now, while young women write the story of their bodies and measure the world to strip it of language and cast it naked on the sand for the sun to write upon. I do not profess to understand. It has to do with dreams, I think, but the young women aren’t saying. Many of them are quite angry, although they have difficulty saying about what. I understand. It’s a hard journey, life. It’s hard waking.
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I hope the young men find them there, though. I hope the young women will have them, in their wordlessness. I hope there’s enough wordlessness to go around. It’s awkward, but it can’t be helped. There is no other way to see in the dark. I hope we will protect them.

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The machines are merciless.

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I speak out of turn, perhaps, but I do so because love is merciful.

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I know it is an indulgence on my part, but what else? Every child must learn the old ways by touch alone, by breath and blood and bone, by skin and lip and teeth and tongue.

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Only that way will they learn of us and live, and we will live on through them.

Un-Naming Okanagan Lake

If I look west down the arm of the fjord lake (Okanagan) from the beach down below my house, I see this kind of thing on some evenings …

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… and this kind of thing on others.

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One is called a mountain. One is called a cloud. They sure look like they’re responding to the same energy. This snow cloud, too.

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This lake, in this fjord, in this deep fault, stretching down almost 1500 metres, has power.

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And moods.p1440021

It’s in the same class of creature as glaciers and oceans.

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Let’s stop calling her water.

 

Girls Fun Day Out in the Okanagan Snow

Wanna have some fun in the snow? Well, if you’re human, sledding is great. Bit of a bumpy ride down, and watch for the cacti under the snow and broken off volcano bits and all that, but whee.p1460632

However, then there are the pros. Slalom …

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Loop-de-loops!p1460616

Graceful glides down through the powder at 16 Below. Bright sun. Nice.p1460617

You can ski alone.p1460621

Or in tandem.

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Or as a trio.

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It’s all in the stance, of course.

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That’s my amateurish man track to the right. I admit, it’s slow skiing. p1460743

But fun.p1460737

And beats the crowded conditions at the bottom of the hill.p1460694

Fast food joint, you know.p1460750

Boring. Better to hit the slopes with the girls.

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Yeah.

 

Humans and Geese and Weather and Geese and Humans and Geese

Canada geese always push their ability to withstand weather by coming back from migration wayyy too early in the spring and then toughing it out. That come-too-early thing is what Canada geese are all about. For the past twenty years or so, a goodly flock of them just haven’t bothered to leave. Local governments pay people to go around and shake their eggs in their nests, so their numbers don’t increase — this is considered a humane way of keeping beaches, so important for tourist dollars, free of goose poop. Here they are, childless, on the ice at Minus 20.
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The sun is going down. Night is coming on. But don’t you worry about them. Other humans come by in their cars, dozens every day, and feed them, which is all strictly forbidden. These humans consider this feeding of hungry animals to be humane. Pushing the weather, or humans, that’s who geese are. I love the way they encourage people to come outside for even five minutes in the cold and be the weather. Honk.

 

 

The Grasslands and Free Will

I saw something beautiful today. Want to see? Just follow my footsteps. Trudge trudge trudge. Here we go…

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Before the snow comes, the grass is dense. It sways in the wind. Just watch what happens.

It snows.

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Mule deer…
p1450573… make tracks in the snow. On a golf course, where there is nothing to guide them, they follow each other, in single file.

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On the grass itself, they let the grass show them the path.

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Then the wind comes.

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Then the wind keeps coming.

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There’s a lot of wind here. There’s nothing above us except the universe. It makes the wind. Nice.

That wind keeps coming.

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Well, the same happens to the grass.

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The bunchgrass.p1460278

It directs the wind, too, just like the mule deer. I promise, if you’re going to go walking now, you’re going to walk where there is the most wind, which is between the snow. Free will here means you have the free will to choose what has already been chosen for you, to flow.

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Spring’s growth is determined now, in this world of footsteps: footsteps of deer, and footsteps of the wind, and yours, if you like.

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The grass sculpts them all.

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And the wind sculpts the grass.

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This is the path.

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Filthy Air in the Okanagan

The difference in colour between the air in the foreground and the background of this image looking from Bella Vista (surely a misnomer) to Okanagan Landing and the Commonage in Vernon yesterday is a measure of how much filth we have put into only five kilometres of air.p1450985

Every cubic metre of that air holds extra heat from the sun. The colour shows that. It is as much a part of global warming as the weedy trees that have crept down the grassland hill, whose dark colour holds the sun’s heat in winter, melting snow that should be melting into the grass later, and then ejecting it into the atmosphere as water in the summer heat, where it is blown away to the east, and gone. The grass wouldn’t have done that, but in our ignorance of grass we did. Forget global C02 measures. We just need to step outside and look at the water. This is what “development” as an economic strategy leads to: dirt. Wear a mask. Because, when you get up to 650 metres on the hill, you can smell this stuff. Here’s what 15 kilometres of it looks like.

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Let’s stop selling the Okanagan as a place with a clean environment. It just makes things worse.

Rodent Breath is Best

Snow everywhere, right? Whew!p1450981

Actually no. Around 20% of the land has no snow at all.p1450753 There’s a whole world down there! Here’s the entrance to a weasel’s den.p1450746

Here’s the sun the snow buckwheat has made out of solar heat, creating summer at the coldest time of the year.

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Nicely done.

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Here’s some rabbitbrush kind of just hanging out. Maybe not the best place for an under snow nest. Snow down your neck and all. Brr.p1460021

But, really, rodent breath is best.

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Closer?

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Just think, you and your buddies nestled in down there, all breathing together into the cold.

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And the neighbours, same thing.

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And their neighbours.

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So, I think you’ll agree, weasels are just fine and all, and the sun is beautiful when brought down to earth, but for a cloudy winter day rodent breath is best.