Darkening Days

The mornings are becoming chill with the Fall. The deciduous trees burn with color. The season of fog and storm is coming.

This year I’m more leery of winter than last. This year I remember the sound of a gale among the Douglas-fir and Western red cedar, the gusts that roared like a north-bound freight, stout timber shattering beneath the weight of wind, the thunder of huge trees striking the ground. The sound of a gale in darkness—whether ashore or at sea—is always more terrifying than in daylight.

That winter storm felled trees that had stood several hundred years, trees that had likely been saplings before the Battle of Bunker Hill. They lay across the road in windrows, isolating our neighborhood. Houses were crushed. Fortunately, no one was killed.

The electricity in our neighborhood failed early in the storm. During that week a cold front settled on Puget Sound. The ground froze hard. There was no heat in the house but the fireplace. It snowed.

We dragged the mattress downstairs and slept in front of the fire, Linda, me and the dogs. Every few hours through successive nights I woke to stoke the fire and keep the cold at bay. Power wasn’t restored for more than a week.

Climatologists tell us the storms will become more powerful and frequent. As the sea level rises places like Bangladesh will be inundated. Pacific atolls and the Gulf Coast may become uninhabitable. Wars will be fought over fresh water and arable land. Millions will become climate refugees. People will die, many people.

Is it avoidable? I suppose the answer is yes, even now we could at least ameliorate the effects, if we could take concerted action based upon enlightened self-interest, if we could surrender short-term advantage for the lasting benefit of all. But we have always been better at responding to disaster than avoiding it.

Perhaps I’m just becoming more dour with age but I find the inhumanism of Robinson Jeffers—or Lao Tzu—the only point of calm within the approaching storm.

“To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the
   whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars
   and his history…for contemplation or in fact. . .
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine
   beauty of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
   or drown in despair when his days darken.”
Robinson Jeffers, The Answer

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