- Earliest March is frequently ragged. Temperatures spike high, plunge low overnight. Dry brown reeds and weeds lie broken and torn. Winter storms have littered ground with needles, branches ripped off trees, broken limbs and whole trunks expose fresh scars. Not least, human detritus glitters and shines incongruous colors everywhere, since nothing has yet been hidden by new growth, nor remains covered by a melting blanket of snow.
- Like everyone else, I unconsciously filter what I do not want to see. Trash is invisible to my eyes seeking flowers or sprouts. Seemingly dead elements of nature fade behind a desire to discover new growth. I can mold my world as I wish, and that is not wrong. But it is never truly the entire story, either.
Beer cans, garbage, natural as me.
- By moonlight, this scene would be wild and haunting enough for the most romantic poet. Another tree toppled by heavy snow and fierce wind, leaving only a question as to why those others survived the midnight onslaught. Dreary, bare, browned downs of soggy low grass and stiff reed stubble. Not even enough forage for flocks of geese, abundant everywhere else.
- As snow gives way to mud, shrill sharp sounds of chain saws envelop woodlands and clearings. When the mud dries, ubiquitous whining drone of leaf-blowers will make quiet a rare commodity even in deepest forest. And yet, I am content, not querulous. No saws, no blowers at this moment, cool but not cold breeze, blue sky. One tree toppled, but most sturdily remain. Grass will soon grow, weeds jump forth. I find it too easy to project fears into the future, to worry about what may be, and my frightened mind discounts current happiness and wonder. My consciousness only truly exists in this moment, after all, and both past and future are mere memory and fiction.
You gonna try to wait it out?”
“Quack, quack,” he calls, as I lean into the stinging gale.
- Ragged implies random, like these branches thickly clustered. There seems to be no discernable pattern, each twig formed by circumstances and twisted by the luck of sun, shade, cold, wind, and wet. At this time of year, as we anxiously scan for swelling buds, we are more likely to notice such underlying structure. Plants which appear smooth and carefully-shaped in full foliage reveal themselves much less so when support is revealed, unlike our own more predictable skeletons.
- I have learned to accept that luck is part of the universe. We inhabit a relatively quiet and stable bubble of time and space but even our sun flares violently ragged. Elsewhere galaxies collide, asteroids smash. I am happy if tornadoes avoid my house, if my tall trees survive a snowstorm, if my zillions of furiously fermenting cells hold together another day. To find beauty amidst infinitely twisted nature is an art skill of highest order.
- Chaos theory and the indeterminate character of whatever underlies our universe decree that science and other human tools can never accurately predict exact moments or events, such as this snowfall. No matter how fine our observations and massive our computations the result of one coin flip can no more be foretold than exactly when the next drip from your faucet will occur, or the exact second a given crocus will open.
- On the other hand, we’re pretty good at averages, probabilities, and ranges _ how much water will fall from that faucet in an hour, how likely a snow event may be this morning, when backyard daffodils should bloom. I have a fifty percent chance of losing one coin toss with you, but almost no chance of losing a bet that after we have done a thousand the count of heads will be around five hundred.
- Humanity has taken what it’s got and run with it. Hard work, difficult thought, and using averages intelligently have yielded a gigantic _ and I would claim beautiful _ civilization. On average.
- My real problem, like yours, like everybody’s, is the specific. I may care deeply about that one coin flip. Odds are I will not be struck by an asteroid or hit by lightning or even run over by a car _ but I can never be sure I am not the one out of whoever who gets blasted. There are ragged possible terrors all about, and if I obsess on them I walk in constant fear.
- Of course, I work it the other way too. The odds of dying today increase with every day of my life, yet I tend to ignore that prediction. Death is certain for any mortal _ but am I really mortal? Most things happen to other people.
- What value, then, odds to me? If I cannot know, is that perhaps a blessing? I seem to have wandered far from chaos theory and ragged nature, but in fact I think I have burrowed towards the core.
- From this tangled ragged mess of dead stalks, ripped leaves, twigs stripped from overhead branches, and all the dull brown detritus of seasons past, new growth emerges. Buds on thorny runners, green shoots thrusting out of still frozen soil, dark leaves that have somehow survived periods of intense cold and dark weeks buried under snow. Nature’s next spectacular is underway. Ignorant of humans’ gloomy thoughts and depressed attitudes, cycles continue. In a short while, this patch of land will be unrecognizable.
- I remain too impatient. I miss many of signs. I cannot quite make out patterns. What will bloom where, which seemingly dead buds are swelling to life, what stirrings occur beneath the superficial cover which is all that I see? I hardly notice that bird species are changing, as new migrants flit by, and robins begin to search for worms. The most wonderful miracle is that one day soon I will suddenly awake to embrace the overwhelming beauty of another vibrant spring.