I love winters in California! The rest of the world is freezing
but we have sun and mild temperatures, we can go for walks on the beach, and
that is exactly what I felt like doing yesterday afternoon. I live just a few
blocks from the Pacific Ocean and since we are in the middle of the week, I
knew it would be quiet there. I put my jacket on and drove to Ocean Beach.
I was walking right by the water's edge staring at the sand, looking for shells and stuff like that. At one point, I unexpectedly tripped over some rocks and almost landed on my face but I put one hand in the sand, bang one knee slightly and caught myself just in time before landing on the ground. Still, I felt disoriented for a minute. But the ocean was undisturbed and the waves came crashing onto the beach quietly. A few seagulls were doing elaborate flying numbers to my right over the water.
And this is when I looked up ahead on the beach and saw her. She must have been 20 feet away from me and she was staring at me. She was quite a sight: a young woman, elegant and thin and very nicely dressed for the office, standing right there in the middle of the beach, in high heels and smoking a cigarette (in San Francisco, for goodness sake!). I stared at her and said: "Where do you come from? How did you get here?" She seemed annoyed at my stupid questions and said: "I was here but you walked right by me and ignored me". This is when I noticed that there was a name tag on her suit and it said: "Mother Nature". She followed my stare and said sadly: "Yes, it's me. First you ignore me, then when you do see me, you are ready to repudiate me. It's a familiar story, isn't it?"
I was speechless and the only thoughts going through my head were whether she was part of the "Invisible Camera" or something like that. But there was no one else on this beach than this stunning (and smoking) young woman and myself. She asked me bluntly, raising her voice: "Why don't you want to pay the carbon tax?"
This was becoming more and more strange and uncanny by the minute but I answered her, stuttering a bit: "You mean for the global warming thing? Is that what you are referring to?" And then I can't tell you what she said because I don't use that kind of language so I actually turned around briefly, trying to calculate how long it would take me to run back to my car.
But something in her voice was holding me in place. Her eyes softened and she said: "I know you love nature, you come around here all the time and take all these pictures. Don't you let my appearance startle you, this is a very expensive suit and I like it! But I know that you are resisting the climate change issue and it irritates me. I was having such a good time in Copenhagen! I love to see them argue over me. The data does not matter. And I know you and I know you love me, you love the ocean and the waves, the mountains, the forest and the sky. You are such a pushover, you love the whole planet!".
I smiled too and I told her that since she truly knew me, she knew that I am patient and kind.
I believe that when you are faced with weirdoes, you don't antagonize them, you just talk to them gently. For that matter, I am often a weirdo magnet: drunks, homeless, artists and people on medication always gravitate to me and tell me their life stories. And the truth is that I don't mind listening to them, it is often better than stories in books or movies. So I can take a strange situation in stride and I thought that if there was just one chance in a million that Mother Nature was standing in front of me, then I have a few questions for her.
"I'll gladly pay the carbon tax, I want a clean planet, with freedom and peace and fair-trade too, and you must know that. But I'm from the French Alps and I know that glaciers have been advancing and receding regularly and it's got little to do with CO2. But since you are here, I am so curious to know, could you PLEASE tell me the truth and tell me exactly HOW you do it?"
She laughed and said that the sun was in control and that she actually always followed his lead. But that the carbon tax was such a quirky idea that she liked it and saw it as a token of love.
I told her that I would have thought that it is when volunteers come to this beach in droves to clean it that pleases her but she said "No, that stuff is boring". "What touches me is the field of poppies by Monet. Or the miles and miles of fabric running through the hills by Christo. And poems, don't forget the beautiful and moving poems. And Beethoven's 7th ..."
It occurred to me suddenly that I better use my time with her wisely and come right to the heart of the matter so I asked her, with a new sense of urgency in my voice: "Please tell me. Is it true that we don't have much time? What are you going to do?"
And her face became so gentle and luminous, she looked at me with such love and tenderness that I was instantly reassured. She said: "What can I tell you? On one hand, the whole climate change theory is a drop in the bucket. But on the other hand, time is indeed running short and there isn't much you can do about it."
Then she turned around, pick up something out of her suit pocket and absorbed herself in it and I thought: "She's got a Blackberry!" and she just left me there, standing and frazzled, completely ignoring me. This strange encounter was such a mixed bag, I was both attracted and irritated. I know that we are not supposed to judge someone by their appearance but this woman was definitively testing my comfort zone. Mother Nature? There was not much that was "maternal" about her and she certainly did not go for the "natural look"… And what can I say, power suits and cigarettes and the whole "elite class aura" of the super-professional-crowd leave me cold. So I started questioning her in my head. I must admit that besides the nagging question of the exact cause of climate change, I have a tendency to resist both Big Business and Big Government and I had been wondering recently whether I could go Green sans Gore and what did she think of that?
It is at this point that she turned around again and called me by my own name: "I can hear the criticism and the questions circling in your head, Michele! Why don't go ahead and ask me one more question?".
And to my own surprise, this is what I blurted out: "How come every snow flake is different? How do you do it?"
She just laughed and said quickly "Good question! But you should ask: "Why" and not "How"… and the answer has to do with "Loooove" and stressing that last word in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way, and with one last puff, she suddenly disappeared. She just vanished in thin air. She was gone.
I was so dazed that I don't know what I did for the next few minutes. Eventually I realized that I was sitting in the sand happily staring at the ocean with a slight bruise on my temple.
Did I dream the whole thing? Should I write to Al Gore? And tell him what? Well, there is hope for one thing. But how do I convey both the calming hope and the sense of urgency? I started writing in my head a very rational and logical letter to the editor of the New York Times but a seagull landed next to me and I lost my train of thoughts.
So I got up and decided that, no matter what she said, I was going to register for the next beach clean-up. And I was going to go home and start working on a poem about the Pacific Ocean...
Copyright © January 2010 Michele Szekely