The Great Clearing
I walk the beach, the sky is blue, the air clear and still, fresh frozen February chill, the mist lying in the hollows of the valley, the skylarks singing as they begin their mating season: picturesque…
But here too are signs, everywhere, of what has been.
The rock pools are pulverised, shattered by the sheer force of the sea. The birdsong mingles with the sound of a roof, which was torn off like a candy bar wrapper, being replaced. The shoreline has been redrawn by the wind and the waves, since last time I was here, and now stands 10, 20 feet in places, further back than a week before. Skeletons of poles stick up, rooted in concrete, standing lonely on the new bare sand. In weeks gone by they held life buoys, to rescue life from the waves… now stolen away by the sea.
What will emerge here in this newly uncovered sand, stripped bare? Which wild plants will take root, stones find their resting place, picnics be had? I am minded that even after devastation, life always finds its way back. New, different, but life all the same.
The bog is bare and low. In summer you can barely see across it for the waving reeds but now it looks like a hummocky field. The inlet wide and deep now, more like the mouth of a river, weaving its way through the bog with grace. The tea house peeps out from the trees. And the massive arboreal stand that my father in the great optimism of a ten year old, planted, that now shelter and cradle his home and family.
And I think of the winds that swept through here last week. The worst in a generation… or maybe more. An ominous sign of things to come, perhaps, as our environment kicks back. We were all shaken by the winds. They swept through our souls, as well as over our houses. The eye of the hurricane rested here. Trees thrown over like pick up sticks, trampolines like tissues. We saw how poorly rooted these things were. How the wind if she wishes can make us her puppets, rags dolls to be thrown through the air at will.
These winds cleared out the dead wood. The rains washed out that which was not deeply rooted. They forced resilience. Forced us to look again at where we live and how… and how we need to maintain and live within, not simply build over, nature’s systems. Shorelines and floodplains, river valleys and mountain tops may be beautiful, but they have purposes beyond our need for beauty, they are functional parts of a dynamic whole. We cannot live wherever we want without consequence.
These two months of storms are the weather equivalent of the financial storms which started back in 2008, which we are still only recovering from. They are a clearing out of all our systems. Leaving us feel exposed, vulnerable, being forced to reconsider, rebuild, rethink the way we live.
We long to return to life as normal, the way things were. But these shocks and storms will keep coming, intensifying the need to rethink everything, and pull together, to find a new way forward, on this newly exposed ground. There are no life buoys, all we have is faith in the great unknowable mystery, our earth, ourselves, and each other. That is more than enough for magic to occur.