The tornadoes are teaching me patience as I’m detoured, slowed by drivers distracted by the destruction and some even doubly distracted by photographing destruction. They are helping me reinforce learning that I already had, but sometimes forget, about the inherent goodness of even the people badly behaved in the normal course of things.
The tornadoes are also reminding me of the indestructible natural systems, that, even though they may appear devastated from this distance, they are, in fact, fluid and flexible, and determined to meet their only goals of propagation of their species and getting on with life.
The trees damaged and destroyed are hurtful for me to see and smell as I climb over and past them. The pines in the paths of the twisters, not even native to this area, are nearly all snapped off, forever distorted, or destined for stump removal. Their smell so pleasant under most circumstances, are for now, the scent of death.
I am reminded of the fragility of life; ours and the trees. I was feeling an overwhelming sadness while sitting in a very long line waiting for my turn at the improvised four-way stop. I noticed the small weedy trees and plants under a tangle of several broken and uprooted old trees. The little ones were oblivious to all the fuss, as if they had not just been through a life or death moment. They would grow right on through the new brush pile of adult trees that had lacked the strength and flexibility to sustain the force of the wind.
All those fallen big trees will continue to be part of that same system they had always been, though. Only now they can nourish the small determined plants underneath differently than they had before. If left alone and not hauled away or chipped they will be new homes to animals—insects, birds, and mammals. They will be homes to fungi and lichens and millipedes and spiders; molds and mildew, bacteria, and microorganisms that we still haven’t discovered. Their bark will hold soil and compost and will sprout billions of seeds of every sort. Even when they are inevitably hauled away and reduced to lumber or mulch, they will serve their ecosystems’ purpose, which is to live and support the life of their communities.
The tornadoes are pretty good teachers about impermanence of our wants and the value of recognizing that we actually still have what we need. When we rally around each other and our community to make sure everyone has shelter, water, food, sanitation; that everyone is safe and feels safe, we have everything we need. These community members are our ecosystem; this is what we do to nurture and keep our species alive.
It’s been a week of some pretty rough refresher course-work in a lot of areas for us. For others this has been a week of some crushing introductory education. No matter how you are recovering from a weekend of coming together over human-made destruction or Momma Nature’s my hope is that we can hold on to the lessons learned and to bonds formed that are inevitable between people and the Earth.
Change is in the wind for this city.