My younger brother lives and works along the southern shores of Lake Erie and must suffer through my annual complaints about January cold snaps in Tampa while shoveling out his driveway. This morning, however, it was my weather forecast that prompted his outreach. Hermine looks . . . well, pretty mean. Modern meteorological technology allows her to make quite an impression, even at a distance, when on the big screen.
Once again, however, Tampa Bay appears to be due for rain and an isolated and localized bit of wind, while it is my friends in the Panhandle and the Big Bend (and points northeast on up into Georgia and the Carolinas) who must hunker down and then pick up the pieces.
For Patrick, the new intern at our parish, the “rain day” that resulted was a joke. He’s lived through “snow days” in the Midwest (and it always snows on a snow day) and “fire days” in California (which are miserable, fire or no fire). The Hermine-inspired “rain day” in Tampa was nothing by comparison.
Then there’s my eldest daughter, whose pull over Mother Nature is much greater than I ever knew. She was in the hospital over the weekend (don’t worry, everything came out fine in the end). She needs to rest, but she wouldn’t be my daughter if she took such advice seriously enough. She was striving to teach by mid-week . . . and exhausting herself.
So she and Mother Nature appear to have had a little chat. The result: Hermine, and school closures across the Bay Area.
Of course, she meant no harm to those now in Hermine’s path. Best laid plans, and all that.
Which is perhaps the larger point.
We like to think we are the masters of our own destinies, that we can gain and maintain control of the business of our lives, whether personal or professional.
Nature, however, has a habit of messing with our business.
It doesn’t have to be a storm, or hospitalization, or novel experiences in new places, to affect our plans. A simple cold, a poor night’s sleep, an anniversary (like September 1, the day my daughter Bakhita passed away), can tip us off our course and make a hash of our plans.
And maybe, just maybe, with due regard for the real threats Hermine is posing to people’s lives as well as their business, we should pause to consider what else she might teach us.
It’s good to chuck our plans from time to time. It’s good to close early, or stay closed, and do something completely differently and unplanned every once in a while. We need to pause. We need to give space to our breathing, our thinking. We need to allow our bodies to heal from injury and our hearts to heal from loss. We need time to cherish wonders, to celebrate life itself.
Nature knows this . . . and nature will find a way to make us pay attention.
So, along with the storm preparations we all now hasten to undertake (that we should have undertaken in early June), along with rushing to meet an accelerated deadline because the winds of Hermine are accelerating, perhaps we should take a little of the time the weather will give us to consider what Nature might be telling us in other places in our lives. Maybe we should pay a bit more attention to her alerts and warnings and, at least as much, her invitations and her surprises.
In this moment of pause and preparation, perhaps we should remember that life isn’t about our plans. It is, after all, about our moments, strung like pearls along our lifeline.
We may be able to cultivate a few of those pearls, but the finest ones on the string are Nature’s own.
Let’s be sure we notice them.