Friday, July 20, 2012

Facing Changes


The rain that whispered in last night was a welcome relief. Everything outside seems to be finally breathing, and a sense of normalcy is returning.

We've experienced a drought that stretched through more than 2 months--no real rain since late May. Then suddenly, with a wicked, loud, tornado-like vengeance, the storms came. The first storm, on June 25, knocked out the power in much of the city for days. Trees were down everywhere--it looked like total carnage, even though the violence only lasted 15 or 20 minutes. I was attending a parent gathering at my oldest son's writing camp, which met in the basement of Kettler Hall at IPFW. Being in the basement, I didn't get to see the sudden insanity, but we all certainly heard it. We came upstairs to investigate. Looking out the glass doors, we saw the world--dry and crackled just minutes before--strewn with huge trees, the sky green. Patrick and I made a dash to his bike (which he had ridden in the sickly-dry heat just hours before) loaded it clumsily into the van (all the while I was thinking the storm would suddenly rear up again and take us out), and headed home, where a power line draped in front of our house, with trees struck down like a warzone. Miraculously, our power stayed on.

The second storm suddenly rushed through while we were sitting at the table eating supper, about 10 days later. We'd been spared the power outage from the first storm, and I thought "Oh great, now it will be our turn to find freezer space somewhere." Many friends and family were just getting their power back, and we heard all the stories about food lost, laundry needing a place to be washed, and general inconvenience created by not having electricity. I did have to giggle at a facebook status that had a picture of an Amish man, complete with a bemused smile, with a caption that read "Lost your electricity? LOL".

I watched, taking a few slow bites of our supper, at the repeat show outside, trees bending and branches flying. Sure enough, the power flickered out. Then back on. Out again. 3 long minutes passed as I stared hard out the window, throwing an internal temper tantrum..."nope, I don't wanna do it...I love my air conditioning, I love my fridge and freezers...and my computer. Damn it!!!" Power came back on, for good, and I let out my breath, relieved.

Today seems like a normal summer day, finally, and I feel my spirits lifting up a bit, like maybe the warning is letting up. Like the earth has been giving us some hints and clues that there really are big changes coming, but that for now we can have some breathing space.

The strange drought-then-storm summer has made me feel like global warming is putting on a show. I am absolutely certain that many other people are making that connection. Although, the words 'global warming' are so overused anymore, it can seem like a joke. As the drought dragged on during the past months, my thoughts have turned dark and worried.

In the past couple of years, I've read countless books concerning the environment, the mess we are in, and steps we need to take to change it. When I began to realize the gravity of our situation and the lack of concern that most people have, I fell into a deep depression that lingered for months. Lately, though, I've been heading toward hope, thinking that I could take charge of my own life and make some changes. To at least be prepared for a society that will inevitably be different than it is now. However, with that hope I've also maintained a comfortable feeling. I've clutched to a security blanket, a general feeling that there was plenty of time with which to 'get situated'. Sure, let the power go out...permanently! But, wait until I have an idea about what to do! Let the weather turn cranky...but let me have some tools on how to live with wild new weather! Let me build up some kind of reserve! Let me have more knowledge, please! With the weather becoming more like a normal July, I am filled with relief, because if some crazy life-is-permanently-changed-as-we-know-it kind of thing were to happen, I'm absolutely unprepared. Just like almost everyone else.

I'm not one of those people who thinks the world is going to end. I don't truly think there is going to be a sudden change, either. I am becoming convinced that society as a whole is going to have to make some adjustments to a new kind of world where oil is not cheap and accessible, and I truly believe that will occur in my lifetime. Right now I am making very tiny changes in my lifestyle, mostly revolving around the food I eat. I fully admit that bigger changes are going to be very hard for me. I feel guilty at times for continuing on with the status quo and not making a big effort like many people do. I want to hang the clothes out to dry, but don't have a clothesline (so...build one?). I want to get rid of air conditioning...but not now, it's just too weird, too uncomfortable. I want to do all kinds of things that will lessen my footprint...but it's just so hard. Excuses tumble around in my brain, in a whiny childish voice, as my consciousness bickers with what is real, normal, and absolutely accepted/expected.

Experiencing strange weather like this really, really gets the mind going, however. During the week long power outages, we went to various houses of family members who were roughing it. I wondered, as people got out the generators--and others began making insurance claims on houses and vehicles caught in the path of toppling trees--how hard would it be to let our old lifestyle go? What if we had no choice, and the power wasn't coming back? What if the insurance companies go bankrupt with too many claims, and there is no more repairing the status quo?

I realize that I'm touching on two separate issues here; 1). the depletion of oil and 2). global warming. Everyone has heard, ad naseum, the statistics, the grim explanations. The terms have become so common that the ideas hang around us like an annoying little sibling who just won't go away, when all we want to do is play with our friends in peace. It wasn't very long ago that the terms meant nothing to me, they were just words I'd heard my whole life. Yet, because the ideas have become so ingrained, we also don't take them seriously. They've become hot-button political issues, sure. But politicians are not interested in making any serious changes. Changes take so, so long...and politicians need to focus on things that will show effect in the few years they are in office, not things that won't show effect for decades.

So why do I suddenly care about the issues? I am not really sure when I first started to investigate for myself, but I am gaining awareness with each new source I find. The topics have been discussed endlessly, so there is no lack of resources. I am not living blindly anymore. I am concerned about the path we are on, and I care, deeply, about what state we leave the world in for my kids, and their kids, and their kids...you get the idea. I'm just one person out of billions, but I'm leaning more deeply into a new camp...those who want to know, need to know, and are willing to face inevitable lifestyle changes instead of blithely going about daily business with eyes closed.

For now, I'll take the gentle rain showers, but the vicious storms are in the forefront of my recent memory. I admit, with some trepidation, that I think the droughts and storms will continue. Our world is changing, right along with my view of it.

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