If you read this column even occasionally, then you know my affinity for beholding trees, birds, water, the seasons, and discovering in the minutiae of relationships between them, some unexpected shimmering insight. We so often hold ourselves outside of nature, as if we are something distinct from the rest of creation, and so miss seeing ourselves in the glory and chaos all around. There is of course, a dark and stormy seam to seeing through that lens as well.
Once upon a time, I visited the end. I was on the edge, hunkered down in a primitive cabin on the rim of a cliff on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. No running water or electricity, and literally, at the end of the last gravel road on the far edge of its northern most reaches.
For twenty-four hours or more, the sky above the ocean opened fire with lightning bolts, scattershot streaks and flashes stabbing the waves and the land. The wind shook the cabin and rain raked the house in sheets. When finally, there was a moment of calm on the battlefield, we wandered out to peer over the ledge.
Standing on the lip of the cliff gaping at the sea raging below, the waves against the rocks were so white it looked like milk. The ocean seemed even more immense than usual, angry and shouting its discontent with noises I had never heard before. To be sure, I had never witnessed the ocean from a wild place like that, nor seen it so wild with so little between me and it. The sheer power of the ocean overwhelmed my rational mind and tingled every one of my senses. Then it happened.
In a flash, I saw the surface of Mars – instead of raging waves I saw dry, red dust frozen in airless space. I saw the end of life as we know it, there at the moment of the ocean’s unassailable vitality. It was clear to me that one day, hopefully long beyond any of our lifetimes, the Earth would no longer be the blue-green beauty we know today. Just as clearly, I could see the culprit was our lust, our deadly consumeristic appetite that usurps all things to its own desire.
There would be no reprieve, no pardon from an Almighty God who insists on a happy ending. In my Jeremiah-like vision, the end was both judgment and logical conclusion.
As is being more widely reported now, Shell, Exxon, and the American Petroleum Institute had hard science in the 1960’s for the catastrophic effects of continued and increased use of fossil fuels on climate and Earth’s ecosystems. They knew it, hid it, and then funded the denial campaign and Tea Party candidates who championed denial, when the data began to surface.
Who are these people, these monsters behind the curtain of corporate America? What adjectives could possibly describe their jowly guard dogs populating the kennels of power in Washington, D.C.?
Well, just as we are able to garner insights about ourselves growing amid the other gems of nature, we can also see ourselves reflected among the death-eaters of American business and politics. Truly, we have met the enemy and they are us.
Jonathan Sams says
Cam, your sea-side epiphany recalls for me the hymn called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, “I bind unto myself this day…the flashing of the lightning free, the rolling winds’ tempestuous shocks, the stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.” Of course Patrick (or whoever i was) could not have known that there Earth is nowhere near as “stable” as it seems, and that even the mighty coastal rocks are no more “eternal” than a grain of sand. What moves me is the sentiment of “binding”, of acknowledging our complete solidarity with those fragile, evolving elements in all their wild vulnerability. Their fate is our own. Long ago I read a fictional account of a back country sermon where the preacher cried out something like this: “From where we set, appears like the standingest thing in the world is a mountain. But it ain’t. That mountain is actually a river, a-washing all of us down stream. Wither goest thou, thou river of earth? Where air thou bearing us?”
Or, as another writer put it, “A river runs through it”. Love, Jon Sams
Cam Miller says
O where O where doth that stream flow, brother Jon?
sandra steigerwald says
Cam Miller says
That makes me happy.