This weekend, howling gusts tore through the Maritime Northwest, tossing branches everywhere and felling trees as well as power lines. Our small island was left largely powerless (many folks still are), a condition that scares some people into fleeing for the City while others fire up generators and fill the quiet air with their roaring racket. Old timers tend to fire up the wood stove instead, with lanterns and camping stoves at the ready. When we first moved here, power outages were commonplace, occurring seemingly at random any time of year and without fail during storms. We quickly learned to bring in armloads of wood, get out candles and oil lamps, and fill tubs with water as soon as the wind picked up (especially after the storm that knocked out power for 11 days in some parts of the island, notably my elderly mother’s apartment complex).
These days, thanks to relentless tree pruning by the power company’s minions, our outages are less common and usually far briefer. However, fierce north winds can still wreak havoc, since southern winds are by far more common. Our trees aren’t used to the change in direction, having built up stronger roots over decades in the face of prevailing winds. All over the island, roads are closed by fallen trees and many a house has been damaged or had near misses as huge trunks fill driveways and yards. Anytime the infrastructure fails, it becomes obvious just how dependent we are on the flow of power to homes and businesses. Our local Prepared teams always get a boost in citizen response after such events, as we recognize how much water and power we use every day and how much harder life can feel when we can’t turn on a tap or flip a switch to get our needs met.
Gathering The Broken
On Sunday I went out for my daily walk when the wind had slowed and soft snowflakes were lazily floating down from scudding clouds that barely blocked the pale winter sun. The roads were littered with fallen branches, most of them thickly embroidered with mosses and lichens and even a few licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza). Much appreciated by First Nations People, these lacy, tree dwelling confections are winter green and summer dormant, with sweet tasting roots that have a decided licorice like flavor. I gathered a handful of the fallen bits and when I got home, made them a cozy nest in a funky old bowl to decorate my doorway. It’s beautiful and it’s also a sorrowful reminder about the state we’re in.
Since Wednesday’s horrific school shooting, I’ve been thinking about broken infrastructure, about power and being powerless, about the fallen and the broken. Our beloved country feels broken to the core, our dearest values tossed aside like towering trees in a raging wind, innocent people stripped of human rights and trodden underfoot. Yet. But. And. I am filled with hope by the passionate uprising of young people, of students who are speaking out and calling shame on the government that is supposed to be safeguarding our people and our democratic values. If teens could vote, Congress and the Senate would look very different very soon. As it is, many people haven’t voted recently because they didn’t see candidates who reflected their values or even bothered to acknowledge what they feel is important about our country.
Rising Up, Everywhere
Thankfully, all across the country, under-represented people are stepping up to run for office, from local councils and school boards to congress and the senate. This year’s elections may well look very different and have very different outcomes from the devastating disasters of the 2016 elections. They certainly will if our kids have their say and their parents and relatives and voting age friends heed their words.
Although I no longer have school aged kids, I’m planning to participate in both of the protest marches now being organized nationally. On March 14, a month from the date of the most recent Florida massacre, the Women’s March organization is calling for students, teachers, and school staff to walk out of school, accompanied by parent, friends, and allies. On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre will be marked by a second rally, again intended to call attention to the mounting death tolls in schools across the country. Our country. Not other countries. Because other countries don’t have anywhere close to the number of school shooting America experiences, not to mention random murderous shootings in shopping malls, movie theaters, and places of gathering and business. No country on earth has as many mass murderers, as many home grown terrorists, nearly all of whom are white males. Armed with guns they can buy in five minutes at any Walmart.
Study War No More
How do we stop this insanity? Our country is at war with itself and our government is causing unmatched harm to its people and to our land. When the government is out of control, we must vote these irresponsible people out of office. When the great majority of elected government officials are in the pay of gun manufacturers and beholden to the NRA, it seems that the only recourse is to fire them all and start again. I’ve heard arguments that government is a complicated business and an influx of newbies could be very disruptive to business as usual. Well, good. Business as usual is killing our kids and killing our planet. Instead, let’s make sure it’s time for healing democracy, time for peaceful rebuilding of our infrastructures, time for representation for the unheard, the unseen, the ignored and the powerless. See you on the streets on March 14. On April 20. And may we all do all in our power to make our world change for the better on Tuesday, November 6.