When my sister was finally able to email again, after four days without electricity, she said everyone south of 40th street in Manhattan lost power. Without refrigeration, food in the grocery stores spoiled. Cold drove her and her husband to move in with some uptown friends. On the web I saw vivid images of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: New York City streets under water, flooded tunnels, and before-and-after photos of the ravaged New Jersey shoreline.
A video showed one of our presidential candidates speaking to his party’s convention, rolling his eyes and mocking the other candidate for wanting to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet, apparently unconcerned about such things himself. The convention crowd cheered him, waving the red, white and blue. Then the video showed the U.S. flag flapping helplessly in a strong wind, foaming waves pounding the shore around it. There were scenes of flooded streets, cars engulfed by water, a house collapsing into the ocean, people being rescued in boats and sleeping in shelters, and then the words: “Climate Change is Not a Joke.”
Personally, I would love to be able to vote for a candidate who could slow the melting of the polar caps, prevent the rise of the oceans, and retain the amazingly stable, temperate weather conditions we have known for a long time. This summer farmers across the Midwest, including those near where I live in Indiana, lost crops to drought and relentless heat.
After enjoying a swim during a heat wave at the end of June, my partner, Terry, and I drove through Barnesville, Ohio as the sky turned ominously dark. Within minutes of getting into the car, a wind wildly lashed tree limbs and street lights. The electricity went out in the buildings we passed. Flying objects slammed into the car, and I feared the windshield would break. Sheets of rain obscured our view, and then came hail. Wanting some protection, we pulled up beside a building, and sat there, quaking, until the wind died down.
When we were able to drive again, we saw that a huge old tree lay across a street not far from us, and a porch roof had fallen down. In Cambridge, Ohio, the Catholic Church had almost entirely collapsed; only the front facade was left standing. Other buildings on the same street lost their roofs. Initially we imagined it was a local storm, but that evening’s news reported that we had been part of a very unusual weather event called a derecho, described on Wikipedia as “one of the most destructive and deadly fast-moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history.” With winds up to 91 miles per hour, it brought down big trees all the way from Indiana to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., causing millions of power outages, many lasting for days. During the storm, as I trembled in the back seat of the car, I wondered where my faith was. It required some deep breaths before I could begin to relax and trust that God was still present.
We have already set in motion climate changes that neither presidential candidate can stop, even if this country were to unite today in a resolve to face our real situation and address it. Perhaps some of those changes can be slowed. Surely, if we find the clarity and sufficient unity–or when we finally do–we can collectively learn to live on this planet in new ways. We don’t have to wait for unity, however, and we must not depend upon outward leaders to shape a healing response. More and more people have been hearing a call to envision and work for a future in which humanity lives in sustainable harmony with the earth.
And all of us have an inner Guide who can teach us how to make the changes necessary for humanity to continue to inhabit this lovely planet. Faith that resides only in the head is of little help in a big storm. For most of us, it takes a storm or some other discomforting experience to motivate us to drop our attention into the heart. There, beyond the limits of our mind, we can find the divine presence which is already within us. If we become inwardly quiet and let go of fear, we can attend to the guidance of the Spirit–the inward teaching of Christ, the instruction of Holy Wisdom– and find the leadership we need to face the current reality of our lives on earth and make the changes required of us.
We can’t prevent storms from uprooting ancient trees
We can’t keep the sea from changing our shorelines
We can’t stop the oceans from rising
But we can elect the Leader who heals.
We can listen to the still small voice of the Creator
We can take the hand of the One
who is with us through the storm.
We can learn from the Teacher who knows
the Way to abundant life.
(c) 2012 Marcelle Martin