Thoughts on Hurricane Sandy
Today I was planning to write about daffodils. Then the Northeast shut down in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, and suddenly the topic seemed a little frivolous. I'm lucky - the monster storm will skip Central North Carolina. That's why I have the luxury of thinking about my garden instead of power outages or flooding.
Self-absorption in the face of Other People's Problems is not new. W.H. Auden's best known poem, Musee des Beaux Arts, is about just this phenomenon:
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
Or while someone is thinking about planting daffodils.
I'll skip ruminating on daffodils for now. Instead, I'll comment on another particularly human phenomenon evoked by Hurricane Sandy: overconfidence in the face of Nature - the idea that, in a battle between Man and Nature, Man will win. The feeling is understandable enough. We have vaccines. We have air conditioning. We have decaffeinated coffee. Really, when you think about all the ways in which we have tricked Nature and gotten around her (think plastic surgery and Prozac), is it any wonder we feel invincible?
Which brings me to gardening. Gardening is about many things - the love of beauty, the thrill of creation, the joy of accomplishment - but at its core, it is about control. It's about subjecting nature to your personal vision - not that there's anything wrong with that. We prune. We stake. We fertilize. We plant agaves in North Carolina clay. Gardening is about trying to influence nature, albeit in a benign way.
I have a neighbor who never waters her plants. She is not much of a gardener, but she enjoys having flowers around her. She buys what she likes, and then, she tells me, she "gives them to God." Obviously she and I have different philosophies - I like to garden, so I put up a fight - but fundamentally, she is on to something. When it comes to Nature, we might win a battle or two, but we'll never win the war, so a little humility is in order. Today, Hurricane Sandy shut down the New York Stock Exchange. I rest my case.
10/30/2012 01:34:35 am
That could be the subject of a whole separate post!
10/29/2012 11:42:51 pm
The photos I've seen of Sandy's damage to NYC and NJ are incredible--I feel terrible for all those people. In MD near DC, we were comparatively lucky--I've been mopping my basement but still have power.
10/30/2012 01:09:36 am
I thought it was a French saying - Man plans, God laughs. But it's probably universal.
I love your perspective on this storm. It is true, no matter what man does - mother earth will always win in the end. We are putting her through a lot and she is just doing what needs to be done. It's a wonderful thing. I do wish all the best in safety for our brothers and sister on the east coast.
10/30/2012 04:38:31 am
Yes, the damage is amazing and it seems that there were many deaths from falling trees, electrocution, etc. Very sobering.
11/29/2012 07:43:35 am
Amen! We could all use a little motivation from time to time.
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The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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