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Does the Earth “Care”?

September 23, 2010

World famous whitewater rafting in the Valley.

Image via Wikipedia

Can the Earth “care”?

Welcome to Autumn, dear reader.  I read (somewhere) that last night we were treated to something called a “Super Harvest Moon”.  What that is – exactly – is the Harvest Moon occuring on the first day of autumn.  I was out burning weeds in the garden at dusk last night, and as the sun set, and the full moon rose, I was (perhaps subliminally?)  aware that things were different.  The moon seemed bigger, and the light denser.  Which got me to wondering -  How significant are we humans on this rotating ball of rock, anyway?

Then I read this:

The Earth Doesn’t Care, by George Will
Now I have always enjoyed reading George Will, and I enjoy seeing him on TV. I LIKE him. This particular article reinforced the feeling that I got when watching the sun set and the moon rise last night. That I am but a very small cog in a very large gear system.

And just where do I fit in?

The article is important because it addresses the system of the Earth over it’s lifetime, not our lifetime. It points out that the Earth has been warming, and cooling over it’s lifetime, without the help of mankind according to some greater plan. The Earth corrects issues like too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, by itself.

If you think that you will “Save the Earth” by driving a hybrid car, or unplugging your refrigerator, or not burning your garden waste, this article will help you to get over any guilt feelings. George Will does a fine job at putting us humans in our place.

The Earth does not care.

Anecdotal story

Once upon a time, back when I was a college student, I went out to West Virginia on a white water rafting trip on the Gauley River.  Now the Gauley is famous for it’s powerful current and severe elevation changes.  Our group was on a guided trip, with one guide in each raft of eight members.  As we drifted down the river, the guide would explain what the next series of rapids was like, what we could expect, and the history of that little stretch of river.

As we approached one rapids, “Giant T” I think he may have called it, he explained how, if one were to fall out of the raft, they would come to a tall rock wall, where the river splits into two paths, and the swimmer would want to go to the left.  If the swimmer went to the right, they would go into a deep recirculating hole, about 40 feet deep, and be drawn underwater for about 37 seconds, pop up ad then go under again.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.  This would continue, over and over again, until the guides had a chance to get out of their rafts, climb up to the rocks on opposite sides of the recirculating hole, and toss ropes across and get them suspended just above the water line, where the recirculating swimmer would pop up every 37 seconds, and could grab the rope, and be rescued.

So there we were, paddling toward the “Giant T” rapids, when our raft rather much  folded neatly with bow and stern rising considerably, and midship (where I was seated) sinking deeply. As this situation was reversed, the midship area went up, then briskly, down,  and I found myself in mid air, with a paddle, and the raft strangely, about five feet to my left, and me in mid-air over the river.  I recall thinking that I don’t really need this paddle too much if I am going swimming, so I tossed it back into the raft, dropped into the water and announced  “See y’all later”.  The raft vanished into the rapids.

And I was alone. In the mighty Gauley River. White water freelance swimming, towards “Giant T”.  Now when you are freelance, white water “swimming”, you do this with your feet forward, your lifejacket floating you, and your arms out to either side, like wings, keeping your head up, and your *general* path away from rocks and tree trunks.  I cam to a sheer rock face rising about twenty feet out of the water, a giant “Tee” shape, where the water stopped moving *downstream* and went perpendicular to downstream, it went to the left and to the right.

And I was alone.  Insignificant.  But the voice of the guide came to insignificant me- “Stay to the left or go deep water recirculating”.  My feet contacted the sheer rock face, and I kicked off, bearing left.  Kinda.  The Gauley swirled around me, dividing neatly to the right and to the left.  I kicked off the sheer shear rock face again, trying to steer to the left. Nothing.  Again, kick, steer, and nothing.  Alone.  But then something changed, and I did move slightly to the left, just before being powerfully drawn into  a small whirlpool, and down I went. Underwater, alone, and boink! back up to the surface, gasp, breath of air, and DOWN, underwater, again, just for a few seconds, up, kick the rock face, GO LEFT, dude,  go left , whirlpool , down hold breath, circle around, up , grab some air, kick the rock face, GO LEFT, LEFT, dude, and down underwater, alone, boink, back to the surface.  And then the might Gauley River pushed me, insignificant and alone, to the left branch of th Giant T, and I was swimming, downstream again, (thankfully) with head above water, and shoot the rapids, kicking off off emergent rocks, and GOING DOWN THE LEFT BRANCH,  YAHOO!  No recirculating hole  for me!  No rock climbing guides stringing ropes over the water to rescue this guy!  Yay!  Just exhilarating, individual white water swimming.  Down the rapids, and out into the slow river water below the rapids,  And, LOOK, there is my raft full of friends, waiting patiently for me!

I climbed back into the raft, and thanked the guide, and my friends, for waiting.  And we resumed our rafting.  But I vividly recall feeling like a watermelon seed, between a person’s fingers, being squeezed, and not knowing where the river would take me next.

So I wonder have you ever had an experience like that where nature’s forces made you feel alone, insignificant and tiny?

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