[Written—because I HAD to—the day after Hurricane Sandy]
Can We Talk?
Mid-morning yesterday a loud crack sent me to the window. A huge limb from one of the Norway maples next door had snapped off and crashed onto my neighbors’ third-story roof. The limb’s extra length and girth meant that despite Hurricane Sandy’s increasing winds, that thing wasn’t going anywhere. Solidly wedged between the remaining tree trunk and the roof, that broken limb did not budge. Believe me, I checked. Repeatedly.
My neighbors on all three floors, I noticed, had shut their blinds; a good policy. Better to not watch the other wind-challenged Norways next to their building flail and flap, better to keep something between themselves and exploding glass should another branch smash through their window.
But even after I’d stopped watching that broken limb every five minutes, I kept my curtains and blinds open. Indeed, as the storm increased, I lay on my bed and watched sheets of rain and bending trees and the occasional bare-headed hurricane-worshiper dreamily walk past. Windows rattling, I allowed myself to think about man-made climate change.
There are some ideas so huge, so overpowering, so engulfing that we can only let the tiniest bits into our consciousness. Sometimes, under only the most ideal of circumstances, when we’re absolutely sure we are safe and strong and willing to do so, we can allow a larger piece to penetrate our defenses. Once, years ago, for example, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, in the quiet of Quaker meeting, I contemplated War; I allowed myself to imagine War’s toll as thoroughly as I could. And when I discovered that, despite the enormity of pain and suffering I acknowledged, I hadn’t shriveled up and died, I began to try thinking honestly and comprehensively about other horrors.
That’s what I did, yesterday. I truly contemplated Sandy or, more accurately named, Frankenstorm. I allowed myself to truly acknowledge that because of warmer ocean water, this monster storm was not a once-in-a-lifetime freak show by nature but man-made. It took all my courage and all my meditative practice; it took hours.
This morning I was scheduled to stand with others at Government Center to silently ask: “Why aren’t we talking about climate change?” I’d planned to wear my yellow slicker, maybe put a piece of duct tape across my mouth, maybe hold photographs of my grandchildren. But the vigil, which had been held around the clock since Saturday, ended early because of Frankenstorm.
So this morning I write this, instead. And because this monster storm has taken out my Internet connection, I will mail this to The Boston Globe. Because today the question is so much more pressing: “Why aren’t we talking about climate change?”