Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature ...

As I write this, the sky is gray and overcast. Rain is bucketing down from the heavens in a great, soaking deluge. Trees are bent in the wind--even the usually stoic trees that do little more than sway in a storm. Palms (the notorious Drama Queens of the tree world) are whipping to and fro, dropping fronds all over the neighborhood.

It's not a bad storm as storms go, but it is the remnants of a hurricane that downgraded to a tropical storm, and like much of the country, we're feeling some of the fallout. A few people are without power and flood warnings are popping up all over the Internet and TV. Luckily no one I know has suffered any damage to their homes, but we'll have a bit of a mess to clean up wen the storm moves past us.

It's hard to imagine living in an area hit by a storm of a larger magnitude. I've lived through killer hailstorms in Montana, storms that delivered hailstones the size of golf balls. I've lived through Rocky Mountain snowstorms that have snapped tree limbs and taken out electric lines, leaving us without electricity and heat for days. As a kid, I learned to judge the look of the sky, and I knew to run home without stopping when the clouds turned a certain color.

Somehow, the idea of a hurricane is different to me. Worse, somehow.

Maybe it's the wind. Maybe it's the thought of seeing everything covered with water. The idea of digging out from under the mud. The stink of the mold. I'm fascinated by water, but I'm also a little frightened by it. I never lose sight of the fact that if Mother Nature gets a bug up her nose, I could be snapped like a twig.

The truth is, I'm a little frightened by Mother Nature in general. I was raised to appreciate nature, but to never underestimate it. Wild animals are not predictable. The weather is much stronger than I am. And there are very few arguments with nature that I can hope to win.

But that doesn't seem to be the prevalent opinion. Ever since I was a kid, I've been shocked by the number of people who visit someplace like Yellowstone National Park and act as if they're inside a Disney theme park.

How does someone grow up in this world and be so supremely unaware that man is nothing but a speck on the planet? We might have brain power on our side, but in a battle of strength, we're never going to win. I've watched idiots approaching herds of wild bison, thinking, I guess, that the bison are tame and trained. Disneyfied.

I've seen parents posing small children in front of wild moose, thinking they're going to get a terrific picture. I've seen people wander off the trails onto the thin crust of earth surrounding the geysers, so supremely certain that they matter, in some way, to the grand scheme of the universe they can't conceive of anything bad happening to them.

Every year or two, we hear reports of someone being attacked by some animal or falling through that crust of earth and being severely burned--and that's if they're lucky, or unlucky, enough to survive. And while there's a human part of me that grieves for their families, I'm also irritated by the idiot who put their kid in harm's way, who left food lying out to attract the animals, or who stepped off the clearly marked path and ignored the warning signs.

I feel the same thing for those people in the mandatory evacuation areas, who chose to ignore the warnings to evacuate. They wouldn't bother me if they didn't and then put the Coast Guard and other volunteers in danger when they cried for help. It's not about being "brave," it's about being smart. I have to wonder what part of "certain death" they found so difficult to understand. Did they all die? No, but that's not the point. The point is that if you survive a face-to-face battle with Mother Nature, it's because she spared you, not because you won.

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