The Days That the Rains Came Down

Floods of near Biblical proportions. Hardly. But that’s been the description of Colorado’s weather this September as deluges, torrents, surges, and crests inundated what normally is semi-arid country. While “100-year flood” is a fairly common description, ours this year has been more like a 500-year level.

Have people been taken by surprise? Certainly those who build on or travel over flood plains shouldn’t be. Yet we don’t normally expect waters to mount so high out of their ordinary channels that they escape bounds and cover nearby acres. It’s easy to think, “Well, we should build more wisely.” But we simply can’t anticipate every contingency.

I kind of like that. I like knowing people aren’t omnipotent, despite our illusions to the contrary, that the natural world exists beyond our control, and we’d better remember that. Still for reasons unknown, the public complains. “The storm sewage system is inadequate.” “The schools should have water-tight basements.” “Why aren’t there broader shoulders on mountain roads to catch the slides?”

It might be that our world has so few real challenges that we need natural disasters. Humanity hits its highs and lows at these times. We always hear stories of heroism and tragedy. The media has something to spotlight other than a film star’s marriages or the stock market’s changes. We all have a chance to think “what if” and chatter about a near-miss we’ve had. Like this one: I was going to drive to a mountain town with several friends on the first day of the rains. The downpour didn’t look that heavy along our route. My wiser companion pointed out that our highway went through mountain areas with steep, rocky, and bare slopes, and mud- and rock-slides could be a problem. We cancelled the trip. Sure enough, whoosh!, slides hit the route we would have traveled.

We should realize we can’t prepare for every single potential disaster. If we go with the flow a little more, and enjoy challenges as they come along, appreciating our participation in and survival of nature’s vagaries, we might approach my two-year-old grandson’s attitude. When he spotted the flood in his basement, he ran for his swim suit, begging his mom to take him down to the “Pool! Pool!”

It’s Not Nice to Fool (Around With) Mother Nature, or Carl Hiassen’s Vindication

Sometimes it seems this world has lots of mean people—greedy, self-centered, and unthinking. They’re amassing money, ignoring real needs, and destroying the environment.

It’s even easier to find bad guys in Florida, at least according to author Carl Hiassen, who’s been beating on this drum for decades.  Usually categorized as a mystery writer, Hiassen is truly a social satiricist, attacking the profiteers, idiots and bad guys who value the all-mighty dollar at the cost of the natural world and common decency.

Many of his plot points seem impossible—rodents with tongues dyed blue, an Orange Bowl Queen kidnapped by a local terrorist cell, an evil developer so obsessed with Barbie he remakes his flings into doubles.

Lo and behold here comes real life to prove anything is possible, even Hiassen’s visions.  Recently a sinkhole near Disney World gobbled up a resort with no warning. Slowly, slowly the villas, elevator shaft and walkways cracked and shattered, then sank into the ground.  Fortunately all visitors and staff were evacuated with no injuries.

I have to wonder if Mother Nature is finally flexing her muscles to take revenge.  In Hiaasen’s books, humankind has so brutalized the native flora and fauna that any benevolent balance seems impossible.  Even the folks charged with creating and enforcing laws to protect, not only the environment but also people, gleefully ignore, cheat, and steal to cover their own assets and asses.

An official with the USGS said humans are accelerating the problem of “sinkhole alley.”  Development creates surfaces off which water must run off, then go underground to cut through weak rock and exacerbate the problem.

Is Hiaasen an extremist or a prophet?  An hysteric or a pragmatist?  We may be getting a response from Mother Nature.


Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Fort Robinson

Fort Robinson

I’ve never been able to understand why men indulge in fistfights. Seems to me at the conclusion you have bloody, damaged participants, and no one wins much of anything except a snippet of status. By extension I feel the same way about armed conflicts. Seems to me the people of both countries lose out and only the top dogs, be they generals or CEOs or presidents stand to gain. The rest of us are poorer, damaged, depressed, and older, but not wiser.
I've come to accept that aggression and violence must be part of the human condition. After all, look at stories and histories down the ages, right from the beginning, i.e., Cain slew Abel. Maybe we needed that brutal streak to guard or feed our families.
From this bias, I'd be unlikely to wax enthusiastic about a military facility, but here I am, touting Fort Robinson. Now a state park in Nebraska, it was an active post from 1874 (first as a camp, then with permanent buildings) until after WW II. These days, although many structures remain, together with a smattering of horses that remind visitors of the Fort’s equine prominence, it’s become a recreational area, perfect for families to run wild and those seeking a retreat from everyday busy, as well as a time capsule of Old West history.
As I peeked into the reproduced or renovated cabins and houses, saw where Chief Crazy Horse received his death blow from a bayonet in the back, imagined the thousands of dogs trained for military during WW II, and walked the paths of a German POW camp between now-vanished barracks, I was struck over and over by the similarities among all the people who’d lived here more than the hegemony* the US government exercised. The Indian women who managed to escape during the 1879 debacle with their children had much in common with the military wives who feared losing their husbands to violence and their children to illnesses. The German soldiers held to a routine almost identical to the Americans’.
Fort Robinson is the perfect place to ponder these questions. You can bed down in the old enlisted men’s quarters in simply furnished but immaculate rooms. Walks or rides or biking let you contemplate nature and just how tiny our struggles seem next to the wide Nebraska skies and variegated greens of grass, evergreens, and shrubs.
I wish I could have packed Fort Robinson’s time and space for musing to my everyday life.
* Hegemony: domination, preponderant influence, or authority over others.