This column first appeared in The Finger Lakes Times, August 31st as part of the regular feature, “Denim Spirit”: http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/denim-spirit-a-kinder-gentler-storm/article_810b4e76-6f93-11e6-87aa-436a3fb85eb4.html
The clouds moved swiftly toward the south but only the leaves at the very tops of the tallest poplars shimmied and shook in the breeze. Where I sat at the edge of the meadow, behind my house staring out at the circle of trees surrounding the open grass in front of dog and me, there was no wind. The Earth, patting its head and rubbing its tummy at the same time, hosted two layers with strong wind above and stillness below.
I like to begin my day here, on an old bench. After a brief walk with the dog up and down the block so she can do her business, then exercising her in earnest playing fetch in the meadow, I pull the reigns against the team of stallions in my brain that want to race into the events of the day and instead, sit with a cup of coffee on an old green bench my landlord reconditioned. I always begin thinking about the characters in the novel I am working on but eventually slip into observation. I watch.
The trees rustle, each one with a different dance. Poplars are the noisiest of the sashayers but they have also been losing their leaves for weeks now. The gnarly old cedars are quiet ones and keep their side of the yard as still as a graveyard. My dog smells more than watches with her tail wagging furiously at each new scent. Sometimes I see the deer, rabbit or groundhog long before she does, her attention poked only when a shift in the wind awakens her to the alien presence.
I remember my dad, sometime in the last of his ninety-three years, lamenting the increase in wind since he was a boy. At the time I figured it was his imagination, after all, how can you truly compare memory to the present? Then I read about how architectural and engineering standards for wind resistance on tall buildings had been increased dramatically over the years because, as my old pops had accurately remembered, there is more and stronger wind these days.
Often, sitting on my bench watching the trees and grass and wind, my thoughts tiptoe ahead and wonder about what harsher changes global warming will wreak upon the mid-century. I argue with myself. Remembering the dilemma of choosing between disposable diapers with four children and the better environmental decision to use cloth ones, I know personally how difficult it is to put the genie back in the bottle once it is out. Likewise, air conditioners are carbon monsters but in these past weeks of post-90 temperatures for those of us in a climate not used to it, only the most saintly among us can resist.
Human beings usually require disaster to learn and change, and usually more than one of the same kinds of disaster. I doubt the effects of global warming will allow us much room for learning so we better get it right early on. There are hints here and there, that the coalition of corporate and political interest groups fueling the movement of denial of global warming with their billions is finally beginning to fail.
Maybe there are enough people like my dad, who watch and remember and think. Just maybe the combination of common experience, common sense, and technological advance will actually help us to ride out the storm ahead and help to make it a kinder, gentler storm than the one we might have wreaked upon ourselves. Maybe.