The BF walked into the living room with a concerned look on his face. Two massive storms were tracking both north and south of us, and they were the huge, high, hammerheaded thunderbumpers that spelled disaster. I retracted our deck awning just in time, as the first drops of rain began to fall. Then I ran like hell to put the cover onto his grill, just as the hail began.
Not long before this, golf ball-sized hail had killed two birds and a few animals at the Cheyenne Mountain zoo down in Colorado Springs. This was no joke.
I left the sliding glass door open and watched the weather come in. First, tiny pieces of hail, which danced delicately off the red-painted deck. At this point I yelled at the BF to get his car under my thick, heavily-leafed crab apple tree. He barely made it.
Then all hell broke loose. As I sat and watched, the glass door and the entire side of my house facing east got slammed, battered, bruised and beaten senseless by the wind. The hail, which in this case was about half the size of a ping-pong ball, thwacked the glass door with the kind of power that puts the fear of God into anyone who has never faced off with Mama Nature.
The hail stripped the brand new paint job that I had just paid my handyman to finish on my deck. It gouged the wood around my windows. I hate to think about the roof.
The gutters gushed, then sagged.
And that was just the house.
The previous Sunday I had just completed planting all the new ground cover, bushes, succulents and lovely blooming plants in my yard. Thousands of dollars and untold hours of work. The yard nearly shimmered. The succulents waved great heavy seed heads. The plants exploded and grew and mounded with the soft watering, even in the mean midsummer heat. I coaxed, talked, loved and encouraged. The yard was gorgeous.
For three perfect, wondrous days. I was immensely proud of my first-timer’s effort. The garden gave back as much as I put in. Then, two titanic storms collided with pure fury right over our punkin’ heads.
The storm went on for some time. I could see leaves ripped and torn from the high summer ash and the lone maple, leaving a carpet of bright green on my lawn. Some of my aspens were stripped bare. Ice plants lay buried in ice. The mounds of delicate lamb’s ears, which I had gently encouraged back to full health after an earwig attack, lay flattened and gouged.
By the time the storm was through I had a four-inch layer of hail, frozen solid, on my deck.
At least half of the leaves on my trees, bushes and shrubs had been shredded. The succulents, once bursting with life, were sliced to pieces. My iceplants had drowned. A brand new, very expensive bush had been decimated. A forsythia bush, which was just beginning to send out bright green new shoots, looked DOA. So too, the variegated dogwood, which promptly dropped all its leaves.
This is our new normal.
Where once we could craft our yards with some confidence that they would outlive us and make our properties more valuable, with the increase in drought, higher temperatures and vastly more severe storms, we can’t count on anything other than Mama Nature’s increasingly unpredictable wrath.
I grew up in hurricane country. Owned a house in North Carolina that, shortly after I moved in, got walloped by Hurricane Fran in 1996. If you’ve never lived through that kind of storm, or been close to a tornado, you have absolutely no clue what kind of devastation this kind of severity can wreak. Try hiking in a blizzard on the side of an 18,000' slope in Nepal. That will get your attention. Try canoeing through a downpour in the Amazon. You’ve never seen rain like that. It’s immensely humbling. But it’s not the Hand of God. Shit just happens.
Yesterday my lawn people came through to blow off and collect all the dead leaves. I get to inspect what’s left, and do my best to coax the crumpled vegetation back to life in the short growing season I have left. Some are just gone. That’s the way of it. I am picking tidbits of aspens out of bushes, off the ground. Will be for weeks. Yet even this morning, tiny new green shoots were peeking out at the based of a denuded plant. Life finds a way.
It’s too late to replant. And, of course, insurance doesn’t cover landscape damage. If a car had plowed into my big ash tree out front, yes. But when Mama Nature plows through your yard, nope. That’s just shit happens.
These days severe storms have a greater tendency to be highly focused and localized. When the BF and I took a drive out for dinner that night when things slowed down, not three blocks north, hardly a tree had been touched. The storm had slammed just a few blocks with surgical precision. All my neighbors were out, as we had been, with snow shovels, pushing the masses of ice and downed leaves into the street.
More violent storms, much worse drought, meaner hailstorms. This is what climate change looks like. It’s going to get worse rather than better. We can no longer plan our lives around what the weather was even ten years ago. Frankly, we no longer have a clue. The bill, however, has come due, for what we’ve been doing in the world with our energy production. It doesn’t matter whether you happen to agree. It doesn’t matter if you are in denial. Denial doesn’t save you from a snowstorm on Denali any more than it does from a tsuami wave on South Beach. If you think God is going to save you, you are in for a very, very rough go. By the same token, God didn’t wake up this morning and decide to deliver a devastating blow to your prize rosebushes because you forgot to fill the collection plate last Sunday.
Let’s be clear: earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have nothing to do with what humans do behind closed doors, in dark alleys, and most particularly in the dark confines of so-called sanctuaries, otherwise known as the Church.
The Argument for Weather as Retribution
There are people who honestly believe that such storms are punishment for misdeeds, most particularly homosexuality and abortion. If that were the case, then I have a very hard time understanding why a so-called vengeful and deeply offended God hasn’t yet blasted the Holy Shit out of the Holy See, which is guilty of centuries of pedophilia, homosexuality, sexual abuses, crimes against its flock, covering up said crimes, lying about those crimes, and colluding behind closed doors to protect their own at all costs. This protection is primarily against the victims, who continue to be challenged over the veracity of their stories, but who have been paid off to the tune of some four billion smackers. So far. For that kind of money, every priest in Creation could have gotten himself quietly laid on the side for his entire lifetime without having to resort to victimizing the Church’s children.
Even Pope Francis, while in Chile, disbelieved the survivors’ stories rather than believe them, which threw him in hot water with the otherwise faithful. To his credit, he later apologized. But every country in the world that houses Catholic priests also houses, closets and protects pedophiles. Religion is one of the safest places offenders can hide. One of the very first lessons any priest learns is loyalty to the Church, the Almighty Institution, before God, before Christ, before faith, before all other things. Protection of the Church and the internal chain of command is above all other things. (https://www.npr.org/2018/08/16/639371736/what-allows-sex-abuse-to-proliferate-within-the-catholic-church). Secrecy, lies, collusion and claims of religious “mystery” are all part of what creates systemic violence and corruption. And pardon me, Father, but it breaks one of the Ten Commandments. When the institution of the Church is vastly more important than God Himself, which the Church says we are supposed to be worshipping, then it sure is a religious mystery to me why a perfectly timed tornado hasn’t cleaned house in the Houses of God all over the world.
Look, I’m just saying here.
Saying that extreme weather is God’s wrath against homosexuality and abortion is about as stupid as claiming that the hail that hammered the heads of those birds down in Cheyenne Mountain Zoo were for sins against nature. What did they do, fail to get baptized? Forget to say their prayers one night before nesting? One bird looked at another bird’s butt feathers?
An angry God Who felt that His followers were out of line might have sent the Vatican and its bishops and cardinals to a much earlier reckoning than they had reckoned for, as it were, if this were the case. There are few institutions more guilty of more crimes against children, more lacking in genuine faith to Christ, more in debt to society for the damage to the innocent than the Catholic Church as well as many other sects. So, the logic only follows. If in fact weather is the Hand of God, then He sure has been mightily selective in whom to punish based on the standards preached by those who love to use such events as proof positive that our Maker is mighty angry.
If God really is angry, why hasn’t He surgically removed the Vatican, which is among the most corrupt institutions on the face of the Earth, and anything but holy? Like I said, this has been going for centuries. Surely God would be tired of this by now, don’tcha think? Not only that, those non-Catholic pastors and preachers who are actively engaged in sex rings in this country and all over the world while at the same time preaching fire and brimstone to those who offend the Almighty seem awfully short of scorched britches. A well-placed and tidily-aimed lightning strike from the Lord God might do them all one hell of a lot of good. Saying that well, it’s a mystery, is a good way to get superstitious folks to buy in. The problem is, well, science.
Mama Nature is in charge on our blue marble. She doesn’t much care who gets hurt, be it a flood, a hurricane, a series of tornadoes, a killing drought or much of anything else. She’s an equal opportunity murderer just as She is an equal opportunity nurturer. A lightning-set fire in the woods will wipe out untold creatures that didn’t engage in homosexuality just as swiftly as a flood will take out most of New Orleans after a hurricane. I would posit that there’s a lot of highly creative sexuality in New Orleans. Just as there is everywhere else. Wherever there are humans, in fact, for as along as we have been around.
In fact, long long long long before there was a Catholic Church or Christians or anything else. Sex and survival are any species’ most powerful drives, and Mama Nature designed it that way. She delivers life just as much as she delivers death with equanimity.
Bad behavior, forgive me, ain’t got nuthin’ to do with it. Nobody in my house is gay. Nobody in my house had an abortion. So why did our tiny neighborhood get slammed? Because shit happens. Bad weather has nothing to do with a vengeful God. Worsening weather has everything to do with messing with Mama Nature. If there is a sin here, it’s the sins we have repeatedly heaped upon our own Earth, whose laws of science speak great truths to what is going on with far greater accuracy than some religious interpretation for poor behavior.
I rather love it when those who claim retribution on those whose sexual views said preacher doesn’t agree with get flooded out of their own homes (please see Christian pastor Tony Perkins for this beaut) but when Mama Nature slaps THEM down it’s a lesson of Biblical proportions to teach them how to live a better life. For the other guy, it’s retribution. My goodness, how handy. For a chuckle, please see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/18/tony-perkins-floods-louisiana-gay-christian-conservative.
After all, we’re hardly the only orb in the Universe. There are mighty blasts, crashes and explosions across the Cosmos that have nothing whatsoever to do with abortion or homosexuality, and everything to do with just how the Universe works. It would be fair to say that if there is life elsewhere, they also die unexpectedly, get hit with foul weather, receive slams from the occasional asteroid or meteorite, lightning strikes, floods, solar flares.
In other words, shit just happens. On this particular planet, we have fooled with Mama Nature enough so that Mama Nature is just throwing it back at us. Her wrath is indiscriminate, in precisely the same way our extraordinary abuses of Her world kill indiscriminately: trees, birds, fish, insects….people. You get my drift. There is no fairness in any of it. I can rail all I want about my ruined garden and nobody cares. It’s just life.
I can understand the desperate need to make sense of a terrifying world. I can understand why people- as we have through the ages- looked to mysterious answers to explain weather and events that we are foolish enough to take personally. However, this is why we have science, which makes sense of much of what we are handed by Mama Nature. Religion gives us faith to face those challenges. That’s why the two work together. If we were never meant to have science to understand our natural world, then we would never have evolved the brain size to invent the wheel, fire, and everything else since then.
What we do with all that, happens in Mama’s house. As I gently coax my garden back to life with the help of bright sunshine (which, by the way, has been blocked today by another impending storm), I recognize that nothing about the weather is personal. That’s the science of a changing world. Learning how to deal with Mama Nature’s many moods is strictly up to me. That’s faith. One does not cancel out the other. Science is one of the many tools we earned over our development to better understand our natural world. Faith is what we use to deal with disasters, both physical and emotional, that are an inevitable part of living in Her House.
As I write this, a huge lightning strike lit up my basement room, and the resulting thunder caused me to leap outta my chair. Just Mama having Her say.
Indeed, as it gets increasingly crazy out there, I might posit that much greater faith will come in handy, as we use the gift of science to negotiate a tentative truce with Mama. After all, a certain Good Book advises us to respect our Mother and Father. Indeed. We haven’t been. Perhaps it’s time to stop scapegoating God for nasty weather and start acting like we have some regard for Mom.