The Bay New, Morro Bay, CA
We do not see our hand in what happens, so we call certain events “melancholy accidents . . .”
One sniff and there it is, the soft, sweet smell of spring. It’s cold and wet and raining and the dogs are hunched in their sweaters, hustling miserably along the cold breezeway from the yard, rushing to get back into the warm house, but there it is nonetheless: Spring.
Our California seasons may be subtle, but for me they’re as distinct as a bright line drawn in the sky, an invisible change that’s whispered in an instant; one day winter, the next, something soft appears, a touch, a smell, a brief breeze of temperature change, and suddenly the world has turned new once again. Somewhere, everywhere, the buds have ceased dreaming and are swelling out from the dark into the light. The earth sighs and its winter breath is gone.
It may be an odd world view, but such sudden soft beauty on the air only reminds me how precious few these Halcyon days are. According to all reputable scientists, our heedless refusal to think further than our nose, our unwillingness to owe the future anything, our decisions, made one by one, year by year, to know but not know, to know but not act, our continued failure of political and personal will to change our relentless addiction to non-renewable forms of energy, all of this has already set in motion a climate change that nothing, not a million Kyoto treaties, not a billion hybrid cars, not a trillion windmills can stop. What we have begun must now run its awful course, while leaving the fearsome price to be paid by those who come after us.
Today, the Greenland ice pack is disappearing at an alarming rate. Antarctica’s vast ice sheets are slipping away. The polar bears roaming the great wastes of the north may be gone within the lifetimes of our grandchildren. The polar caps now melting will not only raise the levels of the sea, but will shift the vast, globe-circling Gulf Stream, thereby changing weather patterns forever. Thus it begins: Flood, famine, hurricanes that will make Katrina look like a mere nor’easter, coastal cities gone, buried beneath the rising sea, vast migrations of millions of desperate people triggering wars for possession of arable land, potable water and access to vital resources.
Will our grandchildren and great grandchildren curse our names and die of pestilence carried north by fecund, ever evolving insects happy to inhabit a new land made warm and wet by our heedless actions? Those old enough to remember The Old Times, will grieve for what’s been lost, but the young will not care. Who now remembers the deep snows Kennewick Man knew, a walkable Bering Sea, the wooly mammoths? Who will be left to remember polar bears, cows, or cold dogs hunched in their sweaters? History is always an unaffordable luxury to the dying and so it will be forgotten or re-written as myth. The surviving young will adapt into a brave new world and will cease to care that that polar bears ever once roamed anywhere. Polar bears will be as remote and curious to them as pterodactyls are to us.
In the mass die-offs – of people and countless species – there will be new creatures brought forth. There always are. The strong, the smart, the adaptable will mutate and survive. The rest won’t. And the grief of their passing will be lost to the fierce winds. Mother Nature, Gaia, the Great Goddess Earth, doesn’t much care who or what comes forth from her fertile loins. Something will. Something always does.
Yet, even in our new world, there still will be seasons – the tilting of the earth’s axis will ensure that. A winterish time will be followed briefly by something softer, sweeter on the air. As it was, as it is, as it ever will be, world without end, the earth will abide. And perhaps, once again, in some far distant future, someone will pause of a morning to sniff the air and think, Ah, yes, Spring.