The coverage of the flooding throughout the Midwest this month will have brought more than one reader to wonder why people just don’t move to where they can stay high and dry. Easy to say when you are high and dry, and before the mud slide or water shortage or hurricane or wildfire or other so-called natural disaster occurs closer to home. It’s not easy to move a city, of course, nor can home owners pack up the neighborhood en masse without losing their shirts. More important, people live where they do because it once was beneficial to put the city where it is, and because it often is beneficial to continue to live close to nature. Getting too close is one problem, but we should remember that becoming too insulated from our environment is equally dangerous, physically and spiritually.
Rather than feel superior or even fortunate for being above the floods, let’s take a minute to simply marvel at nature.
This photograph gives us both the awesome power of natural forces and the beauty of the earth, the incredible gift of new growth and the fury of destruction. That thunderhead can appear out of nowhere, gather together wind, water, and fire, and wreak havoc on the work of a year or a lifetime. Yet that crop can come up seemingly by magic, teased out of the ground by the sun and rain which feed it and without which none of us would live. No one wants to be battered by the storm, but why would anyone want to get too far away from this?
This shot from the San Juan Islands near Seattle is a picture in serenity. But the islands were created by the same massive, impersonal forces that were visible over the wheat field. And that water is no safer than the Mississippi, colder, in fact, with deadly currents should you capsize. But we don’t worry about that when looking from such a privileged place as that provided by this photograph. And it is beautiful. We should ponder why it is so beautiful, for that is another gift: our human ability to see it as more than forage or shelter or simply what it is. Instead, we see the beauty of forms, whether undulating shapes or shimmering shades of luminescence. And form is the trace of prior activity, the natural forces molding the land and channeling the waters.
Photographs by Steve Hausler/Associated Press and Bruce Dike/The Daily Dozen at nationalgeographic.com
The beauty of creation is awe inspiring. And where people live is often just the accident of where they were born. We should also remember that no place on Earth is “safe” from the forces of nature or the internal dynamics of our island home. The ocean is so vast and my boat is so small.
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