Roughly a week ago, Maine was the epicenter for a middling-to-large earthquake, felt for many hundreds of miles around. This week, not only is there a (somewhat downgraded) tsunami in Hawaii and a large quake in Canada that caused it, but lots of rain and snow in Canada as well. In the southern United States on the East Coast, people are already trying to clean up and recoup their losses from Frankenstorm Sandy while the Mid-Atlantic states are in the midst of it or have just had it leave, and New Jersey and farther North are bracing for the impact, assessing risks and giving advice and aid to those who need it. We seem to be these days (in Woody Allen’s words) “at two with nature.” Though my spectacles are a bit nearsighted and I haven’t lately looked at world weather beyond this continent, during this year at least there have been major weather events the world over, all of which tell us that something is vastly wrong, beyond the notion of a twenty year weather cycle such as some people cite. And that something is clearly what is known as global warming (which until recently a child of my acquaintance referred to by the accurate misnomer of “global warning”).
Yes, we clearly are receiving a “global warning,” about our use of fossil fuels, and about our polluting of the earth, and about all our other climactic sins and misdoings. So what do we do now? Well, the idea of windpower strikes me as especially fortuitous, because one of the results of our misuse of the earth has been higher winds, gales, hurricanes, and if we can manage correctly to use the bad conditions we have thus created, then it’s a step toward redemption and redress of Mother Nature’s grievances. Now if only we could find some natural process that required the use of dirty air, dirty water, etc. then we would be a lot better off than we are now. That’s what we as a global people can do, if that’s not too much dreaming. At the very least, we can learn to live on better terms with our environment than we do now. As Willa Cather said of trees, “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.” Right now, trees with leaves still on them are losing branches willy-nilly in storms and water surges, yet beginning next spring, already many of them will be sprouting little limbs out of the raw, torn flesh where full grown limbs once were. Then again, many of them will be too damaged to do so, and will die and need to be chopped down, so it doesn’t do to be too sanguine or lackadaisical. This to us sometimes seems like the cruelty of nature, the anti-human and illogical force that swirls around us and sets limits to the greatness we could achieve. Yet, what do we do (sometimes) when we have “greatness” in human terms? Often, we end up displaying an equal or worse cruelty in human terms to anything nature could dream up, making wars and genocides and allowing people to starve and die needlessly. At the very least, one can say that Mother Nature is impersonal (whereas we have even made our complaints against nature personal by personalizing and referring to “her” as “Mother”).
It follows from this that the best we can be as humans is to help solve the problems created by impersonal forces such as nature, both to our environment and to other humans. And in the process, we help save ourselves and solve our own dilemmas. This year, why not volunteer to clean up a beach, or to help out at a soup kitchen, or to run or walk for a charity, something which you yourself are interested in so that you don’t lose steam halfway through? I have in the past for differing periods of time served as a sighted guide for a visually impaired person and have volunteered at an animal shelter, working predominantly with cats. If you don’t have much time on your hands, then think of contributing to a charity of your choice. This is how we stand a chance of weathering the metaphorical storms of our lives, and pulling together to solve the larger problems of our existence, such as the ones “Mother” Nature is throwing at us right now.
As to more immediate and personal plans for this coming week? Be practical, prudent, and self- and other-protective in anticipation that nature may have some unexpected challenge for you. We have bought groceries which we plan to cook or prepare ahead of time, things that will keep fairly well. I have my reading and my crocheting to keep me busy during the brunt of the storm. We have towels ready for the rain, which may or may not seep in around the windows. And we have batteries and a heavy-duty flashlight ready to keep us steady should all the lights go out. Our prescriptions and over-the-counter medications are stocked and up to date, and our car will, we hope, be parked in a spot where we can avoid having it flooded. Here’s hoping that you have (or have had) the same luck with your preparations. And here’s a dedication to those who have died in this storm already; may they find rest in whatever home individually awaits them according to their wishes, and may some spring come when fresh buds spring out from where they were torn away.