This week, while I am visiting family in Houston Texas, Hurricane Alex is moving across the Gulf of Mexico toward Brownsville, where it is predicted to hit land around midnight tonight. Still hundreds of miles away from here, Alex began having his effect yesterday afternoon. Within minutes, the storm’s high winds had cracked open the blackened sky and filled the streets with water. Nature poured a drink into her glass and started stirring.
Growing up in Houston, I have experienced a few hurricanes in my lifetime. As a young girl of 4 in 1960, I remember Hurricane Carla as an exciting event in our household, and we were prepared: windows reinforced with big tape Xs, bathtubs filled with clean water, gas “hurricane lamps” standing by… just in case. I recall, as Carla moved over our neighborhood, how the midday sky grew dark as dusk, the winds and rains swirled around the house, and the pine tree outside my parents’ bedroom lost its life to the storm’s beating. With winds of 150 mph, the Category 5 hurricane was one of the worst to ever make landfall in the United States.
Alex is the first June hurricane in the Gulf in 25 years, as the annual alphabet countdown usually begins in August or September. It is expected to be a Category 2 storm with 24-hour rainfalls up to 12 inches in the hardest-hit areas. The winds are picking up again outside, and we are standing by. But hurricanes are unpredictable, and Alex could as easily lose strength as gain it, in its crossing of the already-stressed Gulf of Mexico.
Nature is an awesome creative force. Everywhere you look, the Earth’s drive to create is apparent. Even in a concrete city like Houston, every crack in the street is sprouting with something green, where humans have not intervened to prevent it. But the force of Nature has two directions: one creates and the other destroys. The former is more comfortable than the latter, but both are required in the creation of new things.
Learning to work in harmony with the enormous creative force of Life is one of our most challenging and rewarding tasks as human beings. Our attitude toward Nature has long been one of domination. We take its resources to feed our appetites; and we will suck it dry before we will stop to ask if what we’re doing is sustainable. We must never forget that we do not sit outside Nature; we are a part of it. Our role in it has limits; crossing those limits has consequences. Every now and then, Nature pours a drink to remind us that we are not in charge.
As I watch the Doppler images of Alex’ massive vortex of wind and water spinning counter-clockwise across the Gulf, I can’t help thinking of the Wheel of Creativity. The Wheel shows me that creativity is a vortex too, moving through our lives to stir things up, so that through each of us ideas can take new forms, replacing the old. Even as Alex sends oily waves over sandbag barricades along the coastline, scientists theorize that perhaps the storm will help break up the spill. It is an awesome force we work with, and one that demands our respect; because, when Nature pours herself a drink, we do not hold the glass; we are inside it.