Weather Monsters

“Have you gotten your bags ready?” my friends’ voices piped over the phone. 

“Uh – not yet. Got a bag down from the loft – will get to it.” I said shuffling my feet as I said so.

“Well..what are you doing now?”

“Writing about the weather over the past week.” I said somewhat sheepishly, and a loud laughter emanated from the other side. 

We toodled off with the sentiment of “Well Nero fiddled, I write!” but I am not going to lie. I was rattled, and went off to pack the emergency kit. The wildfires were too close for comfort – the air has been thick with smoke.

Exactly a week ago:

The days had been stifling in the heat wave that gripped the land. Oppressive waves rose from the shimmering hills nearby, and the eyes squinted for respite after the briefest strays outside. Some evenings had a splattering of clouds giving rise to splendid sunsets, and while I swooned my way through the evening walk, I yearned for a bit of rain, if nothing but to smell the parched sizzling earth cooling off a little bit. 

img_9485

I may have wished too soon.

For the very next day, I was looking at the most improbable of sights. I had set a whimsical alarm to rouse me at 5:30 a.m on that Sunday rearing for a hike before the sun started beating down on us. 

While I am always crooning about Nature and talking about it being the greatest soother of all time and all that, I often forget nature’s fury. I live in California where we pay a weather-tax. For the most part, the weather conditions are soothing, flowers bloom the year around, and though I yearn for more rains, it is a mellow nature that greets me most days. But that morning, I listened astounded as thunder rumbled overhead and the noise penetrated the double-paned windows, and then in the darkness the whole house stood illumined for a few seconds. I glanced unwittingly towards the sleeping children, and I stood awed.

We have easily gone more than two decades without thunder and lightning storms of this magnitude in this area. What was going on? 

I whispered to the husband – “Wow! Rain was not even in the weather forecast huh?” and stood mesmerized by the window wondering whether a walk was still on the cards if not a hike.

The husband looked at me and said, “Are you nuts?! Who goes out in this weather? Hiking at that. Nothing doing – if this is you wanting to watch the rain, pull up a chair and sit by the window!”, and he went right back to bed.

So, I did just that – I woke the son and showed him the lightning and the rain pelting down. It made for a magical morning, but I hadn’t completely realized the harm a storm of this magnitude can unleash on an already dry and parched Earth. In under 6 hours, there were more than 10,000 flashes of lightning starting over 300 fires that continue to rage across the Bay Area.

Time Lapse based off Satellite images of the Lightning strikes and subsequent fires in the area.

In just a few days we had experienced everything from heat waves to lightning and thunder storms – all in the midst of a pandemic no less. The air quality deteriorated significantly as the fires raged and fire fighters poured in from everywhere to contain the fires. 🔥 The sheer magnitude of the fires 🔥 they were dealing with had simple folk like me blanching, but these teams had strategy and they were working tirelessly. The tenacity for a job like that! 

In our skies, an angry sun shone through when it could through the smog.

img_9484

One week later:

Wildfires continue to rage over thousands of acres of land. Beloved forests and mountains ranges that have provided solace and comfort to millions of people over the years have been lost to the fires. My heart caught at the news that Big Basin Redwoods were damaged badly. Though redwood trees are supposed to be extraordinarily resilient to fires  and would probably make it past these fires, I grieved. Every time I visited these forests, I have come back not just refreshed, but spiritually in a better place as have thousands of tree huggers over the years. A true space for forest bathing or shinrin yoku as the Japanese call it.

trees_komerabi

It has been a week since the lightning strikes. 1 week in which more than 60,000 acres of land have been burnt, with ominous statistics of 5% fire contained, fire alerts etc.

California Redwoods 

2020 seems to be determined to make its mark.




 

Biophilia

Oh! What a surprise amma?! The book, Nature’s Fix appeals to you.” said the daughter peals of laughter barely concealed in the sentence.

“I know right?! I always keep an open mind to see how else I can improve, my dear!” I said not to be undone in the sarcasm department. 

“You are cooped up in a dull office building in the bustling city – you need a change. I get it! But I am quite happy and young enough to not ‘stretch my limbs’ in nature walks! Nature kook is what you are! I suppose you will now use bits of the books to convince us to come on walks with you. I’ve got homework to do, bye! ” said she mock-straining at my tug to come on a walk with me. But she came. 

As we walked around our neighborhood, watching the leaves slowly turn colors, birds making their way home against the brilliant sunset, children playing and biking, I felt calm. How much of that was due to the fact that I could take the time for a walk at the end of the day, and how much of it was Nature’s work, I am unable to say, but I felt a wonderful shiver as I watched the evening breeze rustle through the large trees in the neighborhood. Slowly, as I watch the wave of leaves tremble in the wind, some of them shaking loose, and others just swaying to the orchestra of the evening, there is a definite sense of belonging to this wonderful planet.

 

As I move around the office or often when I am walking to and from work in the city, I feel a concrete shudder. We are so proud of concrete as a structural material, we pour it everywhere. I feel a lonely stab when I see our gleaming imperfections reflected back to us in the gleaming glass panes of the concrete structures. Even the trees on our city sidewalks seem to be lonely, surrounded by concrete footpaths, and millions of people jostling by them everyday. 

Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.00.13 PM.png

The book, The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, details studies taken up in Japan and South Korea around the effects of nature. It studies blood pressure, release of  how long the effects of nature remain with us – does it only last as long as we are with nature, or does a weekly hike contribute to our wellness over a period of time? More interesting questions such as these are handled in the book. 

I was lured into the book reading about the concept of Shinrin Yoku & Salim Yok(Forest bathing in Japanese & Korean respectively) The Japanese are also probably the only people in the world who have a word for commute hell – Tsukin Jigoku.

nature_fix

Excerpt:

Study in the Nippon Medical School:

Qing Li is interested in nature’s effect on mood states and stress as manifested in the human immune system, Specifically, he studies natural killer immune cells called NK, which protect us from disease agents and can, like cortisol and hemoglobin, be reliably measured in a laboratory. 

Only in 2016 did we officially became an urban species – for the first time, population in cities outnumbered population in rural areas. As we cluster around in larger numbers, it is even more important to study the effects of nature on ourselves. After all, our biophilia has evolved over millennia and this abrupt change from it is bound to bring changes in the ways we can adapt.

Definition of biophilia. : a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature.

Is Nature the next wave after Meditation, Exercise and Organic Foods? 

There have been days when I have wondered how the children found out whether I indulged in a spot of meditation. 🧘‍♀️ 🧘‍♀️ I might have, but did they find out because I had taken the time to meditate and therefore already in a better mood, or did the meditation itself help with specific stressors? Nature studies have similar questions, though I am truly grateful for its personal influence on our well-being. Whether it is because of my beliefs or something else, Nature soothes.

Read also: Music & Gardens by Oliver Sacks

img_4005

The joy and importance of walking – Solvitur Ambulando – It is Solved by Walking

 

%d bloggers like this: