Aftermath

One of my favorite sayings is, “When you change the way you look at things, the way things look changes.” But is the opposite true as well? When the way things look changes, do we look at things differently?

Ten days ago, a powerful storm brought down thousands of trees and caused widespread, prolonged power outages in the area where I live. Initially, everyone’s concerns related to the lack of power – the unremitting 100 degree heat, the spoiled food, the reduced communication ability, and the traffic delays. But now that the power is back on, this week we are dealing with the damage. So many trees snapped in half in my neighborhood that our vistas will permanently change.

The leaves on the fallen limbs have quickly turned from green to brown. The birds are finding strange new places to alight, close to the ground. Every morning we wake to the sound of chain saws and mulching machines. Some tree trunks are still standing, but they will have to be removed later because the trees aren’t salvageable. Now we have sun where there used to be shade, open views where there used to be tree canopy, and exposure where there used to be protection.

It’s hard to know how to feel about this change in perspective. There’s a certain sense of disorientation from the light and the openness. I’m reminded of the David Byrne song, “Once in a Lifetime”, where he says, “You may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful house’”. There’s an unreal quality to the new view.

It’s hard to see benefits and opportunities while we’re spending hundreds of dollars to clean up broken trees. But if I try to change the way I look at it, I can welcome the light. I can look forward to growing sun-loving flowers instead of shade plants. I can expect fewer leaves to clean up this fall. I can picture myself sitting under the festive outdoor umbrella that I’ve never needed before.

Everything changes, and we don’t always get to choose how or when. Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart?…Can any vital process take place without something being changed?”

Everything changes. When I accept that, I can begin to see the beauty in my new view.

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