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A Fear of Change

The clock read 3:19 a.m. when I heard the first rumble of thunder. It didn’t jolt me awake (nothing really does anymore; I’m a light sleeper), but rather, gently brought me out of my slumber as a parent might wake a small child.

When I was a kid, weather – like so many other things -- frightened me: thunder, lightning, wind and the potential in our part of the country that any and every thunderstorm could turn into something bigger: a tornado.

I’m not sure when those fears left me, likely in my early teens, but for years after conquering them, I learned to enjoy a good summer storm: the sounds of thunder, the flashes of lightning, the feel of the weather changing, the smells of the wet concrete and grass coming through the open windows.

In recent years, I’ve inherited from my father the penchant for observing storms from the front porch, the very activity that would freak me out when I was little. I always wanted Dad to come in where it was “safe,” to listen to the TV meteorologists as they told us to take cover, giving us continuous updates on a storm’s movement and intensity. I remember back then counting the minutes until a storm watch or warning would expire, just hoping the worst would miss us.

This morning, decades after I put those fears to rest, awake before I wanted to be, I lie there in the dark, listening, seeing and smelling a storm as it passed. It wasn’t a big event, maybe 20 minutes, but it was just enough to help me appreciate the power and bravado of Nature, doing what it does, letting us know who’s in charge, reminding us that it will react accordingly “up there” to everything we do “down here.”

Until not too long ago, I would have welcomed this show with open arms, taking in its performance like I would a stage play or concert.

And this morning, I did enjoy it, for a few minutes, but that enjoyment was muted when I started thinking about how weather today is different than when I was a kid. Because now, as someone who’s long outgrown his childhood fear that every thunderstorm would spell doom for my family and community, what I now fear is what every storm – large or small, powerful or meek – means in the grander scheme of things. I see how Nature today is reacting to our actions “down here” compared to all those years ago when I was a kid, and it’s much, much scarier. (Not Nature’s fault, by the way.)

Believe what you want about humankind’s effect on climate, but please don’t deny that the intensity, frequency and sheer violence of natural events (storms, fires, etc.) have increased, and by no small measure.

And if you don’t believe Nature is changing (thanks in no small part to how we’re “using” this planet), please take time to learn about those who have lived through a tornado, fought a forest fire, or lost property or – God forbid – loved ones in hurricanes or floods.

This morning, I briefly enjoyed a small, one-act play Nature presented. But after it was over, I couldn’t help thinking about the greater message it was sending me, and all of us. That’s what scares me today.

© 2021 David R. Haznaw

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