It’s a calm, bright, sunny day today. The kind of day that makes you forget that winter, with all of its blustery coldness, is fully upon us. The kind of day for which the words “crisp” and “clear” were invented. The kind of day that was just made for a cup of hot chocolate, a warm sweater and a quick trip downtown for a little Christmas shopping.
I mention this because last week we had a different kind of winter day. I awakened to news reports that winds in excess of 100 miles per hour were ripping through cities just 50 miles from where I live. I bolted out of bed to look outside. It was cloudy and blustery, no doubt, but nothing like what I was hearing on the radio. For hours the fierce winds blew through those towns – towns that are home to many people I know – ripping out trees, pulling out fences, de-shingling houses and turning yard debris into a dangerous assortment of high-speed missiles.
Local meteorologists say there was a high pressure system to the north of us and a low pressure system to the south, and we were caught in the middle of a rush from high to low. I have no idea what any of that means. I just know that stuff like this – long, sustained, intense, hurricane-like winds – are not supposed to happen here. Sure, it gets windy from time to time. We even have microbursts of windy intensity now and then. But we live in the mountains, and I’ve always been told that the mountains protect us from things like tornadoes and hurricanes.
Or at least, they’re supposed to. But 12 years ago we had a tornado touch down here. And then last week, hurricane-force winds. For someone like me, who wants to view the world in simple, clear absolutes, this sort of thing is confusing.
Just ask my little friend Jessica. She is 5, and a few months ago she saw “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time, after which she suddenly had a new fear: wind.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Jessica’s mother told her after a wind-related nightmare. “We don’t get tornadoes or hurricanes or anything like that here. The mountains protect us.”
I should mention that Jessica and her family live in one of the cities that was hit hardest by last week’s wind. They lost a tree, a fence and most of the shingles from their roof. The hardest part for Jessica’s mother was seeing the fear in the eyes of her children – especially her 5-year-old daughter, who had recently been told that something like this couldn’t happen.
Even though it did.
It just happens. Natural disasters happen.
Well, nobody asked me — they never do; they know better — but I have an explanation: sometimes there is no explanation. Sometimes during our precarious journey through life stuff happens that defies explanation. It just happens. Natural disasters happen. Random acts of violence resulting in the loss of innocent life happen. Even good t
Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying to explain the inexplicable. Every time one of these phenomena occurs — natural or man-made — we trot out “experts” who theorize and hypothesize and otherwise-ize. But if you listen carefully and peer closely between the lines, you’ll see that what they’re saying is, essentially, “Hey, sometimes stuff happens” — only they’re saying it in a really educated, erudite way.hings happen – things for which there is no discernable rhyme or reason. They just happen. That’s the nature of our existence on this planet. And for a big chunk of the time we spend here, no mortal explanation is possible — or even necessary.
And that’s OK. Thankfully, our success in life isn’t determined by our answers to “why” questions. When it comes right down to it, success, peace and happiness have less to do with external forces acting upon us than with how we choose to react to those forces. It’s a matter of attitude, not platitudes. Because the fact is, none of us can control what happens to us. We can’t bottle sunshine, or lasso the wind. But we can control our responses to the stuff that happens. And if we can control our responses and reactions, then it doesn’t really matter what happens.