Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is … or do you?

This winter is very disconcerting to me. The very essence of living in northern Minnesota is what we who endure it call, with only half-jest, the “death spike” of early January, when the temperature routinely goes to -30 and seldom gets above 0 for weeks at a time. Cars break down, heating systems implode or explode, travelers die, the ice on the lakes thunders and groans as the frigid temperatures cause it to shift and contract.

Horrible though it is in many regards, something indelible is imprinted on the psyche when you step outside into the ghostly silence of thirty below and stare up into a midnight sky filled with stars as white and lifeless as crystals of ice. The crunch of a boot on snow becomes as loud as a rifle shot, and everything seems at once impossibly close and hopelessly distant. We are transported to an unknown place, and all bear common witness to an undeniable and inescapable truth.

Not so, this year.

I go outside in my tee shirt. I look at ground only thinly covered with snow. My car starts easily, I drive to a town where shoppers’ minds are on the next purchase rather than on the great, looming cold and the shapeless winter. We, as a community, bear witness to nothing in common other than the strangeness of the weather we are experiencing.

And this story is being repeated everywhere.

Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Well, I’m afraid we do know what it is. And I’m afraid it is happening so quickly that we may not be able to stop it. For reasons that elude me, there continue to be people out there who are more angry at those who call attention to this change than at the causes of the change itself. I hear right wing talk shows with their legion of angry white males screaming about left wing conspiracies and natural temperature variations and doomsayers. I see people who are so myopic as to celebrate the warm winter because it allows them to play golf all year around.

Meanwhile, the branches on the trees that frame our dirt road are beginning to bud. Birds that should not be here are hopping and pecking at the earth. Their internal clocks are confused, and they will die when a cold snap hits.

Last summer, the water in our lake went down to unheard of levels. With little snow and little ice, it will be even lower this year. There were almost no mosquitoes, meaning there was little food for the creatures that depend upon them for sustenance. All up and down the chain of life there are small shocks that will too soon reach critical mass.

I am deeply and profoundly bothered by all of this. This is our world, this is what we are passing on to our children. I am neither the first nor the last to say it, but some great national, even international, will must be discovered to redirect our thinking and galvanize our energies.

This is not about politics. This is about our responsibility to the seventh generation.

It is strange and unnerving to be facing a day when I will walk outside in shirtsleeves, fearful of seeing a green shoot poking through the ground.


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5 comments

  1. jim says:

    You’ve been with the professors
    And they’ve all liked your looks
    With great lawyers you have
    Discussed lepers and crooks
    You’ve been through all of
    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
    You’re very well read
    It’s well known….

    Kent…up here in the great northeast it was 72 degrees on sat and sun..it is raining and humid here today…i just killed a fly in my kitchen..the spring peepers were peeping in the pond yesterday morning…people are celebrating relief, skiers are distraught, I am scared. scared for mother earth and our children’s children.
    The greatest scientific minds of this century are screaming “WARNING” and some billionaire oil boy from Texas says “no”
    I know who I trust, and it ain’t him.
    I’m with ya man.
    Blessings,
    Mr. Jones

  2. Mark says:

    Having just returned from taking my mother-in-law home to Canada, I find I am more disturbed by what is happening than ever.
    Where once was the sub-zero temperatures of the ‘killing time’, there was thirties and forties in the day, and twenties at night.
    Where once was several feet of snow cover, there was nothing but brown limp grass covering muddy ground.
    Where once were occasional glimpses of deer, moose, and other wildlife, the song of birds, and a multitude of tracks in the snow, now there was almost nothing to be seen.
    People are puzzled, some concerned, some agnry. But the most frightening thing is the attitudes displayed around the world by those that are elected to lead us.
    Talking with my dad, his summation struck me as the simplest and most direct statment of what is happening: no one is looking for how to stop or change the global changes taking place, they are just looking for ways for us to live with the changes as they come. He thinks it might even be too late to stop the processes we have put into motion, if we had the collective will to do so.
    When I look at my daughter I wonder, how will I be able to explain that I saw this happening, that WE saw this happening, but I/we did nothing?
    I am puzzled and beyond concerned. I am afraid.

  3. neely says:

    Hi, Kent,

    Yeah, the U.P. is having all the same issues. Only 12 inches of snow in December, which is unheard of. An almost green Christmas, which is really unheard of. We’re getting soft.

    There is something to be said for living in a place that gets 300 inches of snow annually and very little sun. It stretches us in ways that don’t get stretched otherwise. We have to work to stay positive and happy as we struggle against SAD, and we have to fight against car rage when the big trucks (and crazy people in little cars) go roaring past us during terrible driving conditions. We work hard to be civil to our neighbors when they push their snow into our driveways and yards. (It’s a pretty big issue, actually, and requires a certain kind of diplomacy. Trust me, after you’ve shoveled for the third time in one day, your neighbor shoveling snow onto your property can lead to some pretty nasty feelings.)

    So this global warming thing is doing more than wrecking with the natural world. It’s messing with our heart muscles.

    I’m reminded of Marge Peircy’s poem To Have Without Holding:

    It hurts to love wide open
    stretching the muscles that feel
    as if they are made of wet plaster,
    then of blunt knives, then
    of sharp knives.

    It’s good to be forced to exercise and stretch these muscles, and I think we feel the loss even though we might not all be able to make the connection between the easy weather and our laxing hearts. Perhaps global warming will require us to stretch and exercise our spirits in different ways. Let’s hope so, otherwise we’ll get too fat to fit into our own skins.

    That would be a bummer.

  4. Anita Biers says:

    Hi, Kent. I live in southwestern PA and was talking to my sister-in-law today who lives in Parker Arizona. The temperature here was 55 and rainy. Parker was 35. Snow and ice lay on the streets of Las Vegas. I am not surprised that it’s happening, only that it happened so fast. The glaciers are melting and soon the polar bear will only be seen in a reserve. Yet this country continues to fight a war we have no business in and forgets the war we should be fighting to save this planet. As Joseph Marshall’s grandfather said in his book regarding the moon landing…”But I wonder if he is very wise…”

    Wisdom seems to be something most people never grasp until it is too late.

  5. Anita Barfoot says:

    And as of today the cycle continues to an even higher degree. One cannot blink it seems, with out word of a hurricane, earthquake, flood, above average temperatures and the list goes on. What does the future hold for our people and for the next seven generations? Will we step up and take responsibility for our destination?

    Kent, thank you for putting your thoughts and words out there for people to see, hear and consider. Something needs to change in the way we live our lives, before we destroy what is left of this beautiful creation.

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