Nature’s Hazards

tumbleweedsNo matter where in the world you live, you are vulnerable to dangers uniquely associated with that locale. Some of us have moved around and weathered a variety of these threats.

My own family has survived earthquakes in our home state of Washington, ice storms in Oklahoma, nearby tornadoes in Texas, record-setting freezes in Minnesota, both droughts and failed levees in two different California cities along with a Super Typhoon in Guam. (Sometimes we’ve even been assailed by disasters that had no place occurring where they did, like a hurricane that knocked out our power for a full month in England, of all places!)

It’s quite possible that you too have experienced near misses when it comes to suffering Nature’s wrath. (I’d much rather attribute these things to fallen Nature than refer to them as “acts of God.”)

C.S. Lewis offers a wonderful description of Nature in Miracles.

You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see . . . this astonishing cataract of bears, babies, and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries, fleas, gases, tornadoes and toads. How could you ever have thought that this was the ultimate reality? How could you ever have thought that it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women? She is herself.

Offer her neither worship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. If we are immortal, and if she is doomed (as the scientists tell us) to run down and die, we shall miss this half-shy and half-flamboyant creature, this ogress, this hoyden, this incorrigible fairy, this dumb witch. But the theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The “vanity” to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured, but cured in character: not tamed (Heaven forbid) nor sterilised. We shall still be able to recognise our old enemy, friend, play-fellow and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting.

But, until that glorious day when Nature has been reborn in the culmination of the event that took place on Calvary . . . until that day, Nature remains a capricious neighbor. It’s best to know what she is likely to throw at you based on where you reside—and be prepared. Disaster preparedness is something that the wise will concern themselves before catastrophe strikes.

There are some dangers, however, for which one cannot adequately prepare. The prospects of mega-tsunamis terrify me (and I don’t even live by the sea). Then there are zombie outbreaks, which are apparently taking place on a frequent basis, if the plethora of media on that ghoulish subject is any indication.

The photograph at the top of this page reveals a grim threat to life on the American plains. There may be a few other places where these merciless creatures wreak havoc (the arid portions of Australia, perhaps), but I hope most of those reading this have been spared the visage of plagues of tumbleweeds racing across the horizon in search of victims to overrun, scar, and bury. As the picture shows, sometimes it is not even safe to shelter in a home during a particularly virulent attack.

I’ve seen many a wayward tumbleweed, while I’ve driven across barren desert terrains. Occasionally you’ll see them alone, scouting ahead of the mass for weak prey. If you see an entire horde, well . . . it’s probably already to late to flee.

This picture makes me shiver. It’s one reason I’m so happy to have moved home to Puget Sound, where the incessant rain* keeps everything green. I can put up with an occasional tectonic jiggle, if it means I don’t have to worry about being buried alive beneath a mountain of desiccated thorns.


* The rainfall in western Washington is highly exaggerated. It’s true that for half of the year it receives more rain than the national average, but the other six months it receives less than average of the rest of the nation.

Also, I don’t believe it is an accident that one of the most commonly encountered tumbleweeds in the United States is Salsola tragus, an utterly humorless thistle that invaded from Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite occasional eruptions, it seems to be lying in wait, for the most part, growing in strength for the final conflagration between humanity and noxious weeds and their allies, the triffids.

12 thoughts on “Nature’s Hazards

    1. You raise a good point. Nature, of course, made no disobedient choice precipitating its fall. It is simply being “itself.” Unfortunately, the consequences of humanity’s fall extend far beyond our own ranks (just as the sinful nature of our parents is passed on to us, despite our “inactivity”). This is one reason there needs to be a new heaven and a new earth, as promised in the Scriptures. It’s the historic Christian answer to the question about why there is so much that is tragic (think disasters, diseases and the like) in a world declared “Good” by its Creator.

      Paul’s explanation in the eighth chapter of Romans is illuminating. In part he writes: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…”

      The new heaven and the new earth will be a glorious thing.

  1. Appreciate that selection about Nature by Lewis. So well said. “…a capricious neighbor” – She always reminds me a bit of Auntie Mame.
    Everyone always says it rains ALL the time there – nice to know it’s exaggerated.
    Hurricanes and floods here we can prepare for – it’s those rolling pet hair balls – what if they pile up while you are napping? (We do not talk of tribbles here – no need to offer suggestions for mutations)

    1. The rainfall myth is due, I think, to the very real presence of cloud cover most days during the fall and winter. It really is overcast many days up here, leading some to suffer seasonal affective disorder.

      1. When we visited once, I just remember it all looked so green and lush – and there was a rainforest park – I do know someone who relocated to Nevada to escape those cloudy days.
        Could use some clouds here – walking the dog is too sunny if I don’t get out before 7AM. I find the constant blazing sun oppressive – SAD in reverse.

      2. Don’t you know it… the Air Force must have thought I liked hot climates, because they sure sent us to many of them. Our final assignment was at Edwards AFB in the Mojave. Whoa! Great assignment, but we had to wait until sunset to walk the dogs each day. (I’m not disciplined enough to get up an hour earlier in the morning, especially on the military schedule!)

  2. They look like big prickly tribbles.

    I just read that passage in Miracles the other day. I had a heckuva time getting through the first chapter of that book (and I’m still not sure I understood it) which is a rare thing for me. I’m loving it, though.

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