I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I’ve been keeping a kind of eager eye on the approaching hurricane season situation. For some reason it has a specific start date: June 1, but I’ve noticed a couple of news reports recently suggesting that it’s already underway. Raymond Lo’s predictions of last fall in regards to water (and fire) disasters seem to be coming to pass, though it’s also fairly obvious that we can count on extreme natural disasters to be part of our lives now. It does not look like we are going back to a time when there were a few hurricanes each season that were of average intensity. Mozambique recently suffered it’s second cyclone, barely a month after the first. India is currently being hit by a powerful cyclone. A recent tropical disturbance near Florida appears to be evidence that the hurricane season is cranking up. Here in Vermont it’s been raining for what feels like forever. I’ve never seen Lake Champlain as high as it is now; there is no land where the Charlotte Beach once was.
And the flooding … Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin. It seems we are a very wet, eroding, landsliding world this year. JT isn’t the only one who’s seen fire and rain. Welcome to the apocalypse, my friends.
I’m always a little hesitant to talk in those terms for fear that someone might take my pastor role as some kind of privilege that gives me insight into God’s plans. It might, but I’m certainly not going to use it to predict the weather. Mostly I think I’m one of those people more willing to point out that we’ve been fucking with our world for a really long time and now and payback seems to be the order of the day. I worked for the Sierra Club in the late 80s and things were going to hell back then. In the thirty years since, not much has improved, from an environmental standpoint. Call my sister and ask her if you don’t believe me; she’s a scientist who has worked in Antarctica many times over the past 10 years; she’s seen firsthand that our planet is melting.
What to do, what to do? I can think of a better way to spend the billion bucks that were raised to rebuild a church that burned recently, but no one’s asking me. Indeed, no one seems to be doing much of anything save separating their trash, which I suspect is all eventually reunited in a giant pile created by the garbageman who laughs at our foolish charade every time he hauls the crap away. If you stop and think for a moment of all the things you do that are kind of sucky for the world we live in you’ll probably feel so ashamed that you will have to back to checking Instagram and drinking a beer. It’s so … much … work to change habits, to cut back, to stop doing stupid things, to care about something as big as all of nature.
The reason I’m feeling a little giddy about hurricane season is because I am packed and ready, toothbrush and passport by the door, to head out with my camera and notebook as a volunteer for disaster responders, Heart to Heart, International. As a logistics member of the team I’ll have to do things like scout for food and pick people up at the airport, but as a communications person I’ll get to take pictures and record stories. “Even an apocalypse needs chroniclers,” as my friend Tim Kreider said in this terrific essay. Read all of his stuff, by the way, if you haven’t already. He’s that great combination of smart/funny I always talk about and love so much. His books, We Learn Nothing and I Wrote This Because I Love You are hilarious, but they make you think, too. They make you think about important things like life and death and love and loss.
Even an apocalypse needs chroniclers, and so I’ve appointed myself to the position and am therefore awaiting hurricane season with a sharpened pencil and a packed satchel. I’m tired of it, too, the destruction, the suffering, the loss. I don’t know if I can do anything about it; I don’t know that hurricanes and typhoons are stoppable anymore. So instead I’m going to show all of you what happened and I’m going to do it with integrity. When I go I’m going to sit with the people there and listen to them tell the story of what happened and then I’m going to share it with you in the hopes that the molecules of your heart shift a little. Because I think that’s where it starts.
So if you see me after the first major one hits in the next couple of months and I look a little psyched, don’t be alarmed. Pestilence, War, Famine and Death are having their day, that’s for sure—we’ve got it all here on Ye Olden Planet Earth. Put me down as the scribe, though, there’s still plenty of work to do.