Comin’ Tomorrow

Forced forsythia still bloom extravagantly in the kitchen, promising better days outside.

Took a frosty morning walk along frozen paths at Caumsett State park, enjoying clear blue sky, bare tangled woodland, brown meadows.  Horses soaking up strengthening sunshine, beech leaf buds surprisingly swelling, a chipmunk early out of hibernation scampering on a leaf, and daffodil shoots barely peeking above the soil here and there.  Late winter harbingers of spring recalled all my other springs as if nothing has changed. 

Away from the constant cries of print and electronic media, the world seems well.  But I am informed that it is not, that in 12 years or less than a century _ or possibly next week _ environmental disaster will kill everyone, or civilization will crash into desperate anarchy, or human dreams will finally end in nihilistic failure.  The beech tree and the chipmunk are deceptively normal:  I am enjoying the last glories of a doomed planet.

An old depression-era song goes “don’t know what’s comin’ tomorrow.”  Nobody does.  Any savant who claims knowledge of what will be in 20 years is a charlatan.  Extrapolations, predictions, prophecies have a way of twisting into strange forms, even though some of them may get some things right, in some kind of way. 

March contains nasty snowstorm surprises, each one hawked as the next grand disaster.

I may be cynical because as part of the boomer generation I have often heard, and occasionally heeded, experts crying wolf for over seventy years.  “Ban the bomb” and the “Population Bomb” and millions of other doomsday scenarios have come and gone.  Life, culture, reality have endured.  Maybe this time scientific experts are right.  I remain too jaded to worry.

Individual existence has always been precarious.  None of us know if we will see the next weekend.  All of us know we will not see the next century.  Science has tried to seduce us into seeing reality in the long, geologic view.  Consciousness, however, is measured in moments, not eons.  My personal story is hardly different than that of any peasant in any other age, when famine or plague or barbarians or simple bad luck could ruin all hopes, and even being, in an unexpected instant.

This time is different, they chant.  The problems are not individual, not local.  This time is everywhere, global, for all time.  I understand intellectually, but viscerally I still exist today under clear blue skies, watching a chipmunk run.  I sip a glass of water, read a book, write this as I always have. 

My seemingly simple breakfast is composed with oats from the Midwest, blueberries from Chile, milk from upstate NY, all using energy to grow, prepare, package, transport _ industrial civilization on a grand scale.  

The ditty continues: “travlin’ along, singin’ a song, side by side.”  Each day which remains is special.  These moments are special.  The future may hold terrors, or everything may work out nicely, but I will never know.  Trying to know is futile, and I confess that I regard most of the gestures of many others as useless superstitions, placebos of the mind.  Bicycling to work will no more stave off carbon disaster than wearing a saint’s relic will prevent black death.  But it makes us feel we are at least doing something.

After my walk, I remember trees abundant over hills, horses romping as breath glows around them, and countless geese taking a sedate crowd walk across a field before one panics and the rest take startled flight with raucous cries.  Tomorrow _ well I don’t know.  I will fight for memory preservation of today, never extended forever.

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