Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Every time there is a hurricane in our part of the world, CNN sends its reporters to cover the storm. There they are, reporting on wind velocity and flooding, their hair blowing in the heavy breeze, their images fading in and out and occasionally breaking off altogether. Sometimes they show pictures of the surf, the spray, the surge of water, the angry ocean boiling in the unrelenting wind.

There is never any difference between one hurricane or the other, as far as this reporting is concerned. They might as well save themselves some money and just show pictures of a high wind bending the palm trees and the heavy surf pounding the shore. The reporters do vary, and for some perverse reason, I have always wanted to see one of these guys sail away, feet off the ground, caught in a blowing wind, like Mary Poppins in reverse. That's just a fantasy, of course, and I wouldn't want this to happen in reality to some hard-working reporter, but you'll have to admit it would be amusing.

Living in the Southland is risky. One trades the better weather for the possibility of having a hurricane blow your house...and you...away. At the moment, it seems as though this is a big risk to take. But, if you ask me in February, when it is below zero and the snow is piling high, the risk seems well worth taking.

I spent last winter in the South, in a gated community filled with near-identical houses. Like a more expensive trailer park, these homes all faced a street and, after two months of living there, I still hadn't seen a neighbor. They may have been ghosts, these entities that never emerge from their homes, never get acquainted with a neighbor, never even walk their dogs. Anyway, I lived a solitary life, taking long drives, exploring streets that looked identical to the one before, and visiting stores that make up the design of every spot in America....the Fast Foods, Walmart, K-Mart, Sears, Lowes....etc, etc. One could feel at home almost anywhere, with the same stores available for shopping. Like the hurricane reporting, the people may be different, but the picture remains the same.

In Northern Florida, the live oaks grow to a tremendous size and are very beautiful. But, as you travel southward, the trees get smaller and look more like what we Northerners would call shrubs. I drove through a Florida National Forest once and it looked like a collection of bushes. I am used to our tall, magnificent pines and the Loblollies there are cute, but hardly big enough to make up a forest.

I am not sure our tall pines could withstand any hurricane. Their roots do not reach deeply into the ground and during storms, they are apt to topple over. A hurricane would send them spinning from one part of the state to another.

Currently, the hurricane in Mexico is not the only disaster in our part of the world. We have had earthquakes in Peru, flooding in the Midwest, forest fires in California and other states, a drought, and a killer heat wave. I don't know if this is all very normal, or a part of the calamity Al Gore has told us about. And, in Utah, six miners are still underground in a cave-in that it is said was totally unnecessary.

We seem to have had more than our share of coal mine accidents in the past few years, even though there are 181 miners trapped in a mine in China, so we are not alone. I can't think of anything worse than being trapped in a dark, dank, dripping and cold mine, no food or potable water, perhaps with just enough oxygen to stay alive until you starve to death, waiting for help that may or may not come, rapping on earthen walls until the flesh is worn off your knuckles.

Think of the families, knowing their loved ones are trapped far below the surface of the earth! Imagine hearing that search had been suspended as not safe. However, it is safe enough for the mine to reopen and once again dig for coal. They will mine in a different location, knowing that another section is a graveyard for their lost comrades. And the roly-poly owner, with his Santa Claus face and his crinkled little eyes, says that life must go on.

Why don't the miners carry some kind of radio, telephone or electronic equipment that sends out a beeping signal? Why is it we can send a man to the moon, but we can't locate a man buried deep underground? I just can't understand why this kind of equipment has not been perfected, and made mandatory in every mine.

One can always ruminate on the weather, its eccentricities, its treasonous behavior, its changing moods. Despite the progress of Science, and despite the work of organizations like the National Hurricane Center, weather projections are not exact and a lot of it is guesswork. Computers have helped compile facts, figures and charts...yet, even then, Mother Nature can be full of surprises. One can also get caught up in calamities, dismayed by the thought of people enduring these disastrous events......children in Peru without blankets in the cold mountain air, people in Jamaica worried about food and water. It's a never-ending tableau of tragedy, this world of ours, so if you get a warm and sunny summer day, enjoy it. Drink it in! Because there is no way of knowing what life will hand out tomorrow.