Formulating complaints is a specialty of elders. Sometimes we claim the past was better, sometimes we lament things did not turn out as we wished, but mostly we are certain things now are never as they should be. Weatherwise, not long ago it was too cold, then too dry _ now it is much too hot, and a deluge arrives way too often. July is often a month of thunderstorms.
Frequency and severity of storms does seem to be increasing, a feature of climate change. As oceans warm and wind patterns shift, scientists predict extreme events much more likely. Long dry spells may be followed by huge water events. Common localized storms will increase in intensity as heat speeds up gusts of wind and delivers more moisture from saturated atmosphere. Trees that have stood for hundreds of years are toppling everywhere. Computerized weather prediction models seem to be failing drastically.
People hardly care. We are no longer farmers. We are no longer barbarians paying attention to the gods and spirits of nature. If it floods, we stay home. If it is hot, we turn on the air conditioning. If one crop fails in the Midwest, we import food from somewhere else. We think we are civilized, technologically secure, safe from harm. Science will save us, even as badly applied science causes most of the troubles. We’ve banished the gods, eliminated the spirits, and we say we rely on cold logic and facts. But, of course, we ignore facts when we do not like them, and logic is easily twisted any which way by clever argument.
This year, powerful thunderstorms seem to underline the equivalent social unrest. Distant rumbles and flickering flashes on the horizon warn that danger approaches. Media warns of problems far away, but far away is growing closer all the time. “Those people” are becoming “these people” and eventually ourselves. A few folks remain oblivious sitting on the beach until the last minute, walking under threatening clouds, ignoring all on the chance that it will miss this area. And, anyway, they know there is little they can do to affect whatever outcome occurs.
There is also a social feeling in the air, not unlike the ionization one can sense when lightning is immanent. Hair stands on end as electrical opposites charge. Social polarization is evident on all sides, on all politics, in every conversation. People shout and grumble and condense internal gripes. Everyone is unhappy, and everyone senses that something big, potentially catastrophic, is about to happen.
Sometimes, as huge thunderheads draw near, it seems I live in the twilight of the gods. Soon this world with all its problems and glories will be washed away into myth. Lightning will crack, thunder will boom, rain will cascade, wind will howl, trees will split and fall, roads will wash away, crops will be flattened, homes will be destroyed. Afterwards there may be a new landscape, even with a rainbow, but it will never quite be the same.
Then again, I recognize an old man’s pessimism. Most storms do no such damage, nature recovers from even major disasters like earthquakes and volcanos, people are well insulated and we believe we can overcome anything.
So, the complaint for the day, as once again humidity suffocates each breath as heat blooms in blasting sunlight. Surely there will be more storms this afternoon. Just as surely, tomorrow will dawn with birds and vibrant colors, clouds or not. Anything else would lead to annoying boredom.