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Mother Nature Does The Twist

September 21, 2010

If you weren’t in Brooklyn or Queens last Thursday, you don’t know what it was like to come home to your street after a tornado hit.

“I had always thought, ‘How could people live there — in places like Kansas?’” Shelley said to me that night. “I had always felt protected here.”  

Neither of us had ever seen anything like it here in our lives.

For me, the worst part was coming back to my block after a night’s work, only to find it closed to traffic because the big oak fell. This tree, probably about 125 years old, was the oldest on the block, and sat in front of my house. I had sort of adopted it over time, learning the advantages of taking a moment to press my palms to it on my way to the subway, or returning back home. It emitted a cool, strong and quiet beam of energy that grounded me. Thursday night, during a storm that reportedly threw down thousands of lightning strikes an hour, one such bolt split this proud old oak right in half, so that part fell one way and blocked traffic, and part crashed against our neighbor’s house.

Now I’m trying to find out if it’s dead or if it can be saved.

The TV news showed people in Penn Station, furious the Long Island Rail Road had stopped running “because there’s a tree on the tracks”. These spoiled suburbanites couldn’t imagine a storm having the power to actually inconvenience them, so they figured it must be the railroad’s fault. The news also showed a live cam on the Grand Central Parkway, where cars leaving the city were still bumper to bumper…at 11:00 pm. “They’re hoping to arrive back home before it’s time to leave for work,” the anchor said.

Another on-the-scene newsman referred to “the wall behind me”. You could see this huge solid brown mass towering over him. Then the camera pulled back as he said the wall “…is actually a downed tree.” It had been felled, and what had once been deeply and intricately woven into the earth for decades, was now indignantly exposed, roots everywhere, like a dead man on the street who had had his pants ripped off.   

No one on TV mentioned the hail, which my cabbie told me about.

“It all looked like the apocalypse to me,” he said.

But here’s what rattles me: How adept are we getting at disconnecting the dots?

If we just look at what the media (or mother nature) throws in front of our faces today, without pulling back (like that TV camera) to see the larger picture, what are we missing?

Say you had a headache today, and then a rash tomorrow, then weakness the next day, and then you started puking. Would you respond by dropping some aspirin, buying some ointment, or a protein drink, or a Dramamine? Would you say, “Well, I’ve had headaches before. And I remember I puked two years ago. There’s nothing new here”? Or would you think, “Maybe I’m sick” and go see a doctor?

Well it’s the same with the weather. This is not the first tornado to touch down in Brooklyn in the last couple of years. But these incidents are relatively minor. Pull back for the larger picture, and there are other dots to connect.

Just this year, for instance…  

  • January 12: Haiti’s quake.
  • February 5-10: two huge snowstorms bring 50 million in the US to a standstill.
  • February 27: Chile’s (8.8) quake, the fifth strongest ever recorded.  
  • March 20: 22 million people take shelter when fierce sandstorms send Mongolian and Gobi Desert grit 1600 miles into Beijing.
  • March 21: The volcano in Iceland shuts down European air travel for six days, stranding 10 million.
  • In April, there’s the BP oil spill, but that’s man made.
  • June — September: New York City experiences its hottest summer on record.

If we connect the dots, what do we see?

I’m reminded of that old bumper sticker from the ‘80s: “God is coming. And is She pissed!”

In Coney Island, there’s a famous roller coaster ride called The Cyclone. But if there are actual, and recurring, cyclones in Brooklyn, where exactly does one go to be safe from twisted weather?

I recently learned an exercise where you stand in place and twirl around while holding your hands up in front of your face. The idea is to keep your eyes on your hands as you spin, which can give you the experience of maintaining focus and calm as the world whirls all around you.

Perhaps maintaining this focus and calm will be our challenge as the weather continues to spin (and twist) out of control.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. roy alexander permalink
    September 21, 2010 10:32 am

    While I often or maybe it’s just sometimes disagree with you, Charley, I continue to be amazed at your writing especially your original metaphors. Although I haven’t commented in a while it’s not because I’ve stopped reading and thinking about your stuff. I’ve just been lazy. Keep it coming. Roy

  2. September 21, 2010 9:26 pm

    Yes, I agree, wonderful writing. Maybe you can compile some of your best posts for a book someday.

  3. September 24, 2010 12:40 am

    The sky is falling.

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