Tag Archives: Nor’easter

Blizzard Warning

The dangers of prognostication were well known in antiquity. Most prophets, who didn’t so much tell the future as warn about probable outcomes, weren’t the most popular of people. They knew that feeling of walking into a crowded room and announcing their career had something to do with religion only to have the place fall silent. Cricket chirps. We all have our secret sins we’d rather not have some stranger judge. So it is with the weather. Something like this must’ve been in the back of my mind as I was trying to write Weathering the Psalms. I lived in Wisconsin in the days before Paul Ryan and, like said Ryan, tornados could strike at any time, unannounced. My family and I spent an anxious afternoon or two in the spider-infested basement based on the inherently uncertain predictions of how a nearby tornado might move.

Those of us in the northwest are sitting here wondering about this monster nor’easter. It’s been in the making for several days and the forecasters, unlike the prophets of old, have been hedging their bets. If this massive cold front from the midwest fails to meet up with the intense storm off the east coast we could end up with only a smattering of snow. If the two collide, well, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel together can’t help us. It’ll be like the book of Revelation. Only colder and with far more snow. Oh to be able to predict the future! It would certainly help when it comes to deciding whether to climb onto that bus or not. I mean a simple rainstorm can add two hours to the homeward commute without the threat of a meteorological Trump coming our way. I thought Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow.

Although predicting the future wasn’t really what prophets did, it didn’t take long before people thought that’s what they were up to. People have always wanted to have the advantage of being able to see disasters before they arrived. Wouldn’t it have been helpful to know the results of 11/9 before Thurston Howell the President was elected? We could’ve bought our Russian grammars and dictionaries before there was a run on the local Barnes and Noble. At the same time I politely dispute the saying that hindsight is 20/20. If we could see anything that clearly we would be such Untied States at the moment. Right now the glass seems to be falling and the wind’s picking up from the northeast. What does it mean? Nobody really knows.

Renters, All

Ownership is an odd concept for mortal creatures. With limited time to spend on a finite planet, we devise rules that give exclusive rights to some while denying access to others. I have never owned property (tellingly called “real estate”)—the life of those who stumble into higher education doesn’t really lend lenders any confidence of one’s ability to repay debts. I spent too much income, I guess, on my education. In any case, the concept of ownership seems to be endemically human. In most societies we want that thing that we found, that we picked up and moved with us, to remain where we put it so that we can access it again. That particular stick or stone that caught our eye for utility or beauty—it is that we wish to own. Soon humans are building vacation homes in the regions of stunning natural beauty that dot an industrialized landscape, vacation homes where they can get away from it all. Humans owning nature.

Recently I read a story in the New Jersey Star-Ledger about beachfront property “owners” in New Jersey suing over beach reclamation. Now before bursting out into peals of laughter, please be aware that those who claim New Jersey lacks natural beauty have never visited the state in the spring. Once outside the urban sprawl surrounding New York City, Jersey is, for the most part, very pleasant. Many of the beaches are pristine. Of course, pristinity invites affluence. The wealthy like to settle where the views are nice. And so when the state tried to prevent beach erosion by building dunes the rich cried foul and began to sue. It looks like the state will have to pay out. The very state that I, along with countless others who can’t afford a single house, support by our taxes. That money is now being piped into the pockets of those whose summer homes now have a slightly diminished view. My heart bleeds.

One of the facts of life on the Atlantic coast is hurricanes. Another is nor’easters. Both of these storms erode beaches at a terrifying rate. And when the beach is gone, whose house will be in the ocean? Those who wanted the dunes removed. Money is just distilled ownership. Those flimsy pieces of paper have no inherent value. It is difficult even to believe in money when you never see it. Electrons zipping through the Internet are the only sign that I’ve been paid. Yet we value it above all else. I’m not sure how this fits in with a gospel that condemns money and a Jesus who suggests the only way to heaven is to give it all away. Well, maybe it all fits, as long as you don’t block my view of the ocean. After all, owning part of a planet entitles you to some feeling of self-importance. Or so I suppose.

Who's really in charge here?

View from the Snowpocalypse

With all of the hype and anxiety of the current Nor’easter dumping snow on the East Coast, a guy from northwestern Pennsylvania can’t help but shrug his shoulders. What’s all the fuss about? Growing up in the snow belt of Lake Erie, I was accustomed to forgetting the color of the ground between December and April. School seldom closed with under a foot of snow. And I had to walk a literal mile to catch the bus, but it was uphill only one way.

The truly fascinating aspect of this storm is the creation of biblically charged words to describe it, as if the American vocabulary has run out of appropriate adjectives. “Snowpocalypse” and “snowmageddon” both appeared in this morning’s paper. The late biblical concepts of apocalypse and Armageddon indicate a devastating turn of the era when a new world is ushered in. All I saw out my front door was a bunch of snow. Peaceful, white, and pretty.

Snowmaggedon? Hardly.

I lament the farming of the otherwise underused Bible for images that cheapen the visceral fear and dread that accompanied ancient outlooks. Once while at Nashotah House in Wisconsin, when the temperature plunged to 38 degrees below zero (air temperature, not wind-chill) and the tired snow was being blown about by unforgiving winds, we were required to make the trek to Milwaukee for a day long spiritual retreat. Just about all human institution had shut down, with the sole remaining exception of a church eager to revitalize its aging congregation. As the ice on the window of the bus refroze immediately after being scraped off, I came close to thinking apocalyptic thoughts I admit. The weather, I guess, has always had a divine connection in our primitive minds after all.