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Ice storm: nature’s call

There is nothing like an ice storm to keep you in your place both philosophically and literally. Sometimes in this day of technological wonders, we feel as though we are shielded from the forces of nature. We put on our water-wicking thermal wear when we venture out on an inclement day. We climb into our cars with four-wheel drive and antilock brakes. Our homes and offices are fueled by reliable heating systems in the winter and soothing cool air in the summer. When outside, inexpensive but effective glasses and creams buffer us from the damaging rays of the sun. Yes, it is easy to feel as though we are in control when it comes to the natural elements around us. Come the ice storm and our delusions are shattered.
I was driving down Interstate 65 following the paths of the latest application of the new molasses ice deterrent on the roadway. A wondrous view appeared as I reached the Seymour area. Overnight, freezing rain had coated all the trees with a layer of ice. In need of gas, I pulled off the interstate and onto a secondary road. I was totally unprepared for the slickness that made my tires completely unable to gain traction. It was a scary experience to travel not in the direction I steered, but zigzaggy as if controlled by some mystical force. I cautiously headed right back to the cleared main highway and then, as a cowed driver, straight home. Every tree branch and grass blade was covered with ice when I reached my home in the woods. I snapped photograph after photograph in every direction. To say it was beautiful is an understatement.
However, I did notice that evergreen trees that I had so carefully planted were weighted down beyond their capacity, creating obvious worries that they would not be able to spring back. I recalled cedars ‘ those hardy souls of the tree world ‘ that had been destroyed along S.R. 62 some years back and remained bare-bent reminders of the down side of an ice storm. The cedars of Lebanon referred to in the Bible may have lasted for hundreds of years in King Solomon’s temple, but when nature decides to let go its fury, it takes its toll.
As I sat in my country barn with those silver-coated trees all around me, I felt just as encased and restrained as the tree branches. I was unable to venture out while held in limbo and unable to predict the timing of the outcome.
We are, as humans, just one player in this big universe of life. We don’t often have natural disasters of horrendous proportion here in the Midwest. An ice storm is a pretty tame way to be reminded of the overwhelming power of nature. As the expression says: ‘It isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature.’
There is increasing awareness of the impact we humans have on our environment. In the past, the universe seemed so vast and our actions seemed inconsequential. Today, we all know the consequences of our actions: global warming, polluted waters, diminished air quality and the presence of mounting health risks to all forms of life. Yes, we can affect life around us, but we can’t control it. We better make peace with this complex ecosystem we inhabit.
As life has evolved, living forms have adapted to their environment. In frigid climates, animals grow heavy coats of hair. Over thousands of years, people in hot and arid lands have developed dark pigmented bodies to protect them from the parching of the sun. Birds migrate to warmer lands when the autumn winds blow and trees lose their leaves and turn dormant until spring brings warm air and rain for new growth.
We humans, as what we like to call the ‘highest form of life on this planet,’ have the capacity to create technological buffers that give us more freedom to occupy the earth on our own terms. As an example, we don’t just live with the results of living forms of yesteryear; we dig down and mine the fossil fuels for our use. We occupy areas that generations ago would have been deemed uninhabitable. What a wondrous thing is the human mind and its resultant actions. We indeed have become an active player in the creation on our universe. What an overwhelming opportunity and responsibility. We need great discipline, humility and benevolent will to assume this operative role. It is our high calling to purposely respond.
Thank goodness for ice crystals that send us wake up calls once in a while.