My flight was cancelled. The office is closed. Our terrific view of the harbor has been obliterated by massive amounts of snow. The only thing I can see are birds trying in vain to manage the high winds outside our windows. The ships have been moved from wherever they are stored and pushed up against the docks in front of our building. They did this during hurricane Sandy too, with tugboats pushing these massive shipping vessels against the docks so they don’t go floating into the lesser boats sitting in the harbor. Well hello, old man winter. Thanks for coming back to the party. It’s been years.
The supermarket was full of people, but empty of food. The roads are now deserted, drivers threatened with fines if they’re caught braving the snow and the winds. The newscasters are calling this the Blizzard of 2013, and Pete Bouchard is predicting over two feet of snow in Boston. This storm is certain to be crippling. Extreme weather ruins a lot of things. It ruins plans, it ruins work, it ruins property. But there is something so humbling about the weather. Mother nature. Mother nature is not necessarily nurturing. She can be vicious. She reminds us of where we stand on this planet. And she brings us together.
I remember right before hurricane Sandy bore down on us, we went to Johnny’s Foodmaster to pick up supplies, worried we would lose power or, worse, water. There is nothing like the powerlessness and collective fear of a massive storm to bring a community together. When the work demands become secondary, and the collective safety becomes paramount, people bare the best parts of themselves. There was no beeping at each other, no dirty looks. Everyone was holding the door for the next person as they rushed into Dunkin’ Donuts. Everyone was telling everyone else “drive safe,” “get home safe,” “stay safe.” The world became a place of kind smiles and understanding glances.
These storms serve everyone a giant helping of humble pie. These storms are reminders, that despite our intelligence, and our progress, and our place at the top of the food chain, that there are forces so far beyond us, so much bigger than we are, forces that are capable of such utter destruction that it takes us out of our own minds for a little while. It’s a nice break to realize your problems and issues are not all that important. We don’t always have control over our own lives and it gives us a moment to breathe, look around, realize it’s a beautiful stroke of luck that mother nature lets us live on her planet. Storms and extreme weather help us appreciate the power of our planet, and the beauty of our presence on it.
Boston is an aggressive city. There are people flipping the bird, cutting one another off, yelling, dropping doors on each other’s faces and conveniently forgetting to hold the elevator doors open. It’s a part of our yankee culture, and as a native of Massachusetts, you grow to love it (sort of). At least you know where you stand with people, right? We are so consumed with our jobs, our family issues, our dramas, budgets, errands and the like that we forget the only truly universal truth. Which is, that we are not the center of the universe. And, when we are all threatened by the same external foe, we stop fighting one another and band together instead.
Storms are so destructive, so angry, and sometimes so very scary. They make us feel small and insignificant and force us to confront our own powerlessness. But this collective powerlessness also gives us great gifts. Only in times of widespread fear and need do we set aside all of our petty differences. And isn’t this always the case? In the most difficult times of our country, even our world, the commonalities loom large and our hearts bleed and break for one another.
Debate is swirling about what these megastorms mean in terms of climate change. They bring trouble and pain and difficulty to millions of people, all over the globe. But at least we can say that they bring us together, like so few things can these days.
- Blizzard with up to three feet of snow set to pound the Northeast (Video) (examiner.com)
- New England, all the way (boston.com)