Snow and Ice

We are in the middle of the second winter storm of the season, this time with ice and wind thrown in for good measure. A winter ice storm is a mixed blessing; only the strongest limbs on the older trees will survive the weight of the ice, and many of the plants around the farm will receive an early nature-pruning by the time the ice melts.

Nature trims for survival and strength, whereas I planned to prune to my own idea of what the flowers and bushes should look like next year. Humans are never as effective in this process as we think we will be. Ah, well.

But should the sun come out over the next day or so I’ll have the trusty digital camera in hand, because that’s when the diamond sharpness of ice coating every limb and twig will become unbearably beautiful. Apparently without any effort or design, the Earth will be transformed into a scene more elegant, more fabulous, more thorough than Hollywood or Broadway could ever produce.

Computer technology can appear to compete faborably with nature, but the result would be energy bits of stored data. Amazing in its own way, yes, but for my way of thinking, actually being able to see the shards of sunlight slashing off in every direction with my eyes, to touch the frigid sheath on a twig and have it melt under the warmth of my body … well there is simply no comparison.

Our computers can create ice storms on demand. Mega agribusiness means we can eat grapefruit and kiwi and bibb lettuce in the middle of a New York winter. We can (at least for now) hop in a car and visit friends a hundred miles away and be back in time for dinner. Yes, our technology allows us to do much that would have been impossible a scant century ago. But the question I think we should be asking is, just because we can do these things, should we be doing them?

Of course much of the fallout of our techno-benefits hurts the Earth. We know that, even if we choose to continue on that destructive path. But it harms us spiritually as well. We are losing the ability to be awed. We have all but forgotten that food is precious and sacred. All we see in an ice storm is a royal pain when we want to drive somewhere. We are forgetting that limits are good and serve us well, not bad restrictions to our every whim.

We are forgetting how to look beneath the surface, beyond the name, of all that surrounds us to the Mystery that is revealed beneath. I think we are in danger of substituting computers and TVs and video games and cars and eighty-hour work weeks and diets and drugs for the lived experience of being human on an amazing planet.

There is time to change all this, but we have to want it first.

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