Nature Meditation #25 – Nature is No Saint

“Nature, as we know her, is no saint.” – Henry David Thoreau, Essays

Any writer knows that there are only a few possible major conflicts available when writing fiction: Man against Man, Man against Himself, and Man against Nature. Only within the last fifty years or so has mankind in the developed nations of the world truly been able to insulate himself/herself from the power of nature. We rarely encounter animal predators, we maintain temperatures for our comfort, and food is (for the most part) readily available.

Things are different in other parts of the world, and even in the poorer areas of developed countries. But the thing we still struggle against, everywhere, is the fury of nature: floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes. These are Nature’s Fury – and we are defenseless.

The following is taken from The Quotable Nature Lover, text by John A. Murray, “For every tranquil day at Edward Hopper’s lighthouse on Cape Cod there is one filled with Winslow Homer’s terrible shipwrecks. For every uneventful summer afternoon in the sunflower fields of western Kansas there is one in which tornadoes drop from the sky and flatten unsuspecting towns. For every family album photograph of Mount St. Helens still wrapped in old growth forest there is one in which it seems a nuclear bomb has just been detonated.”

All too quickly, we can all recall natural disasters that have affected someone somewhere in our nation, if not within our very home state.  Most recently – and close to Oklahoma, was the one-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado, said to have destroyed half of that city located in far southwestern Missouri, only a few miles from Oklahoma.

No, Nature is no saint. To humans, Nature probably represents one of the greatest threats to human life, and something that we can not control, no matter how hard we try. We’ve gotten good at predicting some things. Using computer models, we can predict the paths of storms, guess the way that the winds are going to change as atmospheric currents contact one another, hot and cold air colliding. We use radar to track thunderstorms, and to offer some warning before severe storms occur. We can monitor changes in the earth, but we still can’t tell for sure when a volcano might erupt, a earthquake might happen, a mudslide or forest fire might occur, or a tornado or hurricane might become a lifethreatening storm.

Nature is no more predictable than our lives are predictable. The future is unknown – and always will be. So how do we get past the fear, the scariness of the environment around us? I think that the only way I can get around it is to accept that uncertainty is part of life, the unknown IS life. It always has been, and it always will be.

Nature is beautiful; nature is awesome and powerful. We must accept the good days and the bad days in our lives, and take the opportunities that are placed before us by each of those days. We should be as prepared as we can be for natural disasters, and then carry on with our lives when the bad days are past.

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