Friday, September 2, 2011

Mother Nature!

waves crashing on the shoreMother Nature

Last week was something else – an earthquake and a hurricane and tornados and sunshine and hot and cold…  I'm having trouble remembering where I am.

I grew up in upstate New York and experienced four distinct seasons each year – but there were no earthquakes or tornados.  I later moved to Nevada for nearly a quarter century and experienced dry heat – but there were never any hurricanes or tornados.  I then moved to the beaches of California where the sun shines 300+ days a year, the temperature rarely gets above 75 and earthquakes and wild fires are a nuisance – but there are no tornados or hurricanes. And now I’m back in New York (city and upstate) and just about everything but wild fires have hit here in the past 8 months.  What’s going on?

I didn’t own a winter coat – and the record snow falls and cold last winter drove me to Land’s End with a singleness of purpose.  I didn’t own boots or an umbrella, and the wet snow and rains taught me a lot about what it means to stay dry.  I’m used to driving wherever I want to go and not having a car here to help navigate through the varying weather patterns has made me a fan of the Weather Channel.  I never thought about the weather, never worried about what I’d wear or looked at the skies for clues to what’s coming, and now that the weather changes in the blink of an eye I am obsessed with meteorology.

But last week, depending where you were in the path of all this weather, meteorologists either got it right, mostly right, or wrong.  Hey – they’re human so maybe we shouldn’t hold them to such a high standard as always being right.  I mean, is anybody always right? Maybe we should take what they say and apply some old fashioned lore to this inexact science – such as:

Red sky at night, sailor's delight,
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

When the wind is blowing in the North
No fisherman should set forth,
When the wind is blowing in the East,
'Tis not fit for man nor beast,
When the wind is blowing in the South
It brings the food over the fish's mouth,
When the wind is blowing in the West,
That is when the fishing's best!

When halo rings the moon or sun, rain's approaching on the run.

When windows won't open, and the salt clogs the shaker,
The weather will favor the umbrella maker!

No weather is ill, if the wind be still.  

When sounds travel far and wide,
A stormy day will betide.

If clouds move against the wind, rain will follow.

A coming storm your shooting corns presage,
And aches will throb, your hollow tooth will rage.

I wouldn’t normally be thinking about these things, but all this crazy weather has me spooked.  Is it global warming or just the fact that weather seems unpredictable?  Were the winters way more intense when we were kids, or did it just seem that way because we were kids?  Can weather really be predicted correctly all the time by these meteorologists, or should we take what they say with a “grain of salt”?  Or should we rely more on our own common sense as aided by some of these old fashioned sayings?

Here in New York last week the mayor and the meteorologists got it wrong – but not by much.  The winds blew and the rains fell and, though there was less flooding and damage than predicted here, they made damn sure we were prepared by scaring the daylights out of us with their dire warnings.  Now some people are complaining because they scared us; but those same people complained when they didn’t scare us before last winter’s massive snow storm, or that they didn’t scare others enough before Katrina.

Fact is, lots of people are never happy, especially if they’re inconvenienced.  But potentially saving lives is better than trying to apologize for not saving lives: isn’t that what ‘better safe than sorry’ is all about? Maybe we expect too much from the elected officials who we don’t really like or trust anyways (especially when they are inconveniencing us).  I guess they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  I’ve even read some editorials about how this should make us either for or against big government.  Come on, it was just a storm.  And even though lots of people got flooded out, and there was lots of damage to homes and fields and trees and power lines, and lots of high water and wind, I’m relieved because it was less than predicted here on my street.  I’m really sad for those to whom it was as much or more than predicted.  And even though I don’t blame anyone, I sure as hell would like to know what all this crazy weather means, and whether a red sky at night really does mean a sailor’s delight?
My message this week is about loyalty, and whether we need to think about how loyal we are to others and how loyal we need to be to ourselves:

Arte Nathan“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”  -Mark Twain

Mark Twain achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

Loyalty can be both good and bad.  People often remain loyal long after the reason for doing so has ended.  If the reason you became loyal has petrified then you need to re-examine your motives and goals; you need to break free when the times demand it and it’s the right thing to do.  Loyalty should be given to the best ideas, the highest principles, the most ethical leaders, the greatest challenges, and to the most extraordinary opportunities. But sometimes we remain loyal just because we are afraid to appear disloyal or we’re afraid to re-examine that loyalty.  This conflict can be a Catch 22, or it can be a moment of re-commitment and rebirth.  And just like a plant that’s been sitting for a long time, it’s a good idea to re-pot our beliefs to make sure that our roots continue to grow deeper and stronger.  So look at your loyalties today and make sure they’re where they should be.

Stay warm, dry and well!

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