Good morning to everyone.
Hurricane Irma came knocking on my door on Monday, September 11, 2017. Her gusty breath took down a kingly live oak in my neighbor’s yard and threatened to rip up my back fence. Some of my fellow citizens still wade thigh-high in the muddy alligator- and snake-infested water of Newnan’s Lake. And the Santa Fe River popped over its banks, slowing down recovery even more.
I still don’t have real Internet. Cox Cable seems to have other priorities, but that’s OK, because a week before Irma was a gleam in the eye of God, I ran out and bought a mobile hotspot thingy. So I am glad to be able to do this much.
What I really want to say today, and it will be brief and vague and maybe just plain crazy, is this: We moderns tend to treat weather as a sporadic and often calamitous event. And that’s certainly been true lately, with the 24/7 news cycle. But the thing is, weather forms the very air we breathe, something both quotidian and mysterious, with impacts extending far beyond our own tiny selves. The Butterfly Effect, rightly or wrongly, illustrates certain aspects of Chaos Theory, at least as popularly applied to weather. Far-fetched, yes, very likely, but there’s some truth to the idea, small and insignificant events in history often tend to turn life on its head.
For weather to take pride of place on the stage of history, technologies suitable for accurate measurements of climatic events had to develop. Not only that, a separation of God from science was mandatory. That’s not to say that people didn’t record the weather, because they did, in diaries and letters and newspapers.
So where was I going with this? Ah yes. Hurricane Irma upturned that tree onto the street where I live, wreaking all kinds of misery and debris. She destroyed much of Florida’s citrus crop, maybe as much as 90%, according to a friend of mine who’s a UF horticulturalist. Probably a lot of other agricultural products for which Florida is known took a big hit, too. If it weren’t for the technology of roads and modern-day communications and disaster-relief efforts, many people left homeless would starve for the lack of food. In the past, that’s exactly what would have happened. The early-warning technology made all the difference, with Irma and with her brother Harvey a few weeks previously.
The reason I am thinking of all this in a different light is because of a chance statement a friend of mine made. Actually, two friends.
B. asked me if I’d read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s story of a hurricane and a young wife. And T. responded that doing so would be like a starving man reading about hunger in the midst of a famine. Their comments sent me straight to my well-charged Kindle, where I discovered Erik Larson’s writing on the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas almost to the day, September 8, 1900. Isaac’s Storm proved to be a spellbinding account of Isaac Cline and the evolution of meteorology, especially that of hurricane tracking predictions.
That book set off a light bulb in my brain.
The first day I could drive out of my driveway, after 4 days of sequestration, I headed straight to the public library and checked out all but two of the few books about weather. A plunge into the Kindle Store pulled up a few titles related to weather and history. And a quick Google search yielded a plethora of articles, most by archaeologists related to meteorological catastrophes written in the pages of Earth’s crust.
Having a ringside seat to the devastation that Mother Nature unleashes caused me to think about things in a different light, no pun intended. Without the toys of technology and minimal social media, what remained was me with time to do nothing much except to be still. And read. And think.
I’ll be back again after the Cox Cable guys attach the cable box back on the wall outside and restring the cable for the whole neighborhood.
Best wishes to you all,
© 2017 C. Bertelsen