The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Thursday, November 3, 2011
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. . . on Saturday morning by a freak October snowstorm and an early power outage, I was posting a picture montage taken outside my bedroom window that morning, just as the temps dropped and the rain turned to snow. The local sparrows were freaking out at the feeder, clamoring and fighting each other off to get to the seeds, often in mid-air. I had to wonder whether they came out ahead, given all the energy they were burning in fighting to get to the trough.

And then the power stopped.

Mother Nature can be beautiful, but it can also be cruel and stupid. Human beings are also cruel and stupid, way too often. Just like these battling sparrows, humans have their own wars, inspired by the desire to secure and enjoy the good things about life. And like these sparrows, they just make it all worse for themselves; for most in the short run, for all in the long run.

But unlike these sparrows, we aren’t entirely blind to our blindness. Sparrows have their beaks and talons (it got really interesting when a woodpecker claimed the perch and threatened all the pushy sparrows with its long pointy schnoz), and we have our nuclear weapons. Humankind has raised the stakes enormously, but we also see our sins. Another generation of sparrows won’t make the world any better or worse. Another generation of people CAN and WILL make a difference, one way or another.

So let’s ponder these silly sparrows in the wake of a storm, and reflect upon our own stormy short-sightedness.

As to the power outage, it went on for five days. We just got it back today. I learned to live in a world of candles and darkness, aware of limitations. Tonight, it’s back to civilization for me, and it feels so good. Civilization is really something worth defending, a project worth forwarding, contrarian though it so often seems in relation to Mother Nature. Candles and early darkness have their good points, but I’m glad to put them away. For now.

PS, on Tuesday I was listening to my battery powered radio over breakfast, hoping for better news on power recovery efforts in my area, and the broadcast producer decided to lead-in the story with a musical clip from Soundgarden. Quite an appropriate clip: “I fell on [mournful guitar riff] black days [mournful guitar riff] . . .” Mother nature turned the lights out here for a bit, but humans [finally!] turned them back on. Let’s hope that humans can avoid turning them out for good, and avoid our own sparrow-like self-absorption, short-sightness and stupidity. Or else it really will be “Black Days”, for good.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:53 pm      

  1. Jim, Sorry you have been without power so long. I find myself amazed that so many places (banks, companies of various kinds, any body and anything really in today’s world) is so dependent on electricity.

    Yet, for the most part it seems too many people lose sight of the fact that our electricity is maintained by a more or less slim wire that connects our house to a bigger (but still relatively slim) wire which is again connected by a comparatively slim thread (it seems to me) to the larger grid. And the power companies tend to let their infrastructure ride without making important repairs. This refusal to acknowledge the importance of maintaining the infrastructure is something I just can’t quite comprehend as it is so important in a world based on technology which is based on electricity.

    And it is not only the slim line that is the most important. Back in the 1950s and 1960s I lived near a line of (what do they call them?) those big, high structures that are spaced a set distance apart and that run for miles and miles carrying wires and electricity to various places–still don’t know the name. Well, back in the 1950s/60s I lived near one of those lines of power transfer-ers (best I can do for a name). We had a good thunderstorm one late afternoon toward dark. As I looked out the window of the building in which I was working, I saw a lightning bolt strike one of the large, high-wire structures. And simultaneously with the lightning hitting that came 2 things–green smoke that was the most eerie color I’ve ever seen and darkness for a wide area of the city in which I lived.

    A simple bolt of ligtning struck, and so many people were without electricity. In those days we did not have the information technology, no computers, no phones dependent on electricity, only lights, refrigeration, that kind of thing, which was bad enough. Somehow we got through the whole thing; it’s been so long ago I forget all except the picture in my mind of the lightning, the color, the immediate loss of lights around us.

    But today one would think that the power companies all over the country would consider that their most important element as a company–that which makes the company what it is, rather than profit–would be maintaining the infrastructure. Yet, the power companies go for profit for their shareholders.

    Somehow it defies common sense and so many other things.

    I have heard power companies boasting that “95% of the people now have their power back” and find myself wondering, what about the other 5%? Don’t they count? Seems they can wait 5 days.

    I am glad you are back “on the grid” finally. Sorry you had to do without for 5 days. Yet, from another standpoint and point of view, it does seem to me to be amazing how different life would be if we had less electricity. Maybe life would be slower, closer to nature somehow. But the fact is that we are in the information age which requires electricity, and it does seem to me that the power companies would do well to lay emphasis on maintaining their infrastructure. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 5, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  2. Jim, One more thing: Forgot to say what good pictures you took–once again. You capture the element of the birds competing with one another to get to the food.

    I also see that you capture some of the birds hovering–wings in motion; interaction between the birds–looking down on another bird as if to say, what are you going to do?

    Excellent pictures! I’m always fascinated by birds, like them. Then too, I find myself thinking that they are the descendents of the diosaurs. In the heyday of the dinosaurs, mammals were the “little” animals running around, ignored by the large dinosaurs. Today it’s the mammals that rule and the dinosaurs descendents that run around and are ignored by the mammals. Yet still, I think they are really beautiful, even in their competitive mode. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 5, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

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