As the skies darkened and the wind picked up, I decided to mark the approach of the storm by taking Red out to work with the sheep. I took some photos of this amazing creature, focused, locked in concentration, using the power of his blazing eyes. Tonight, I'll put up a photo album on Facebook of Red At Work, an album of purpose.
In our world, there are few surprises. Storms once stole the imagination, sweeping down and scattering life below. In our time, we believe our technologies will arm us, warn us, prepare us with lists of things to do. So we hear about it countless times until it almost seems unreal. In a world addicted to warnings, there is a license to warn. In a world shrouded in fear, we are urged to be frightened. There are people who rush to prepare, and there are people who say, it is what it is, it will be what it will be. We are nothing but witnesses to our own lives. There is a beauty to it all, as well as fear and confusion. We are small, really, and so we give storms monster names and rush out to buy water and milk and generators, our own ancient rituals in new and different forms. The edge of the storm arrived at our farm this evening, the wind picking up, the clouds gathering and darkening. I saw the animals see it, sense it, feel it, and cluster, move towards the Pole Barn.
I stood in the road and shook my head. What a beautiful and awful thing a storm can be. It is so much more beautiful than a weather map, and I was relieved to see that this is so.
The media sites of the Internet – making money by frightening the wits out of people – are filling up with tips for safety and survival as the Storm From Hell heads up the Coast. Many news organizations are calling this storm "Frankenstorm," not realizing that Mary Shelly would consider them a freak and thoughtless misuse of technology, not a weather system. This morning, I saw warnings for diabetics to stock up on weeks of medication and for dog lovers to rush to vets and get a month's worth of pills. These among hundreds of other warnings and alarms.
People should do what they need to do, but I am throwing up on the Internet a survival guide of my.
- First, don't wait for the storm to knock your power out. Turn off your computers, cable news channels and smart phones right now. Conserve both power and sanity. By now, we all know pretty much where the storm is heading and what it might do. No need to revisit this a hundred times a day in text messages, graphic videos and hysterical announcements. We get it. Let them sell generators ads some other time.
- Put your rifle away and get a bottle of wine instead. It is safer and far more useful in a storm. As the wind howls and the rain pours, light some candles, and drink the wine.
- Be careful who you listen to. There is no money in good and reassuring news, only freaks and socialists want to hear it, and politicians are much more afraid of getting second-guessed than being honest or useful. If you know an old farmer, go and ask him what might happen. That's what I did this morning, and I got this forecast: "rain and wind. We will all be here on Thursday. If you need food, go to a neighbor's house or call your mother-in-law."
- Stock Up: We made our emergency preparedness run at Stannard's Farm Market Saturday. We got a bag full of apples, five bottles of AquaFina water and some cashew nuts. We will much our way right through Armageddon. (We did fill all of our water buckets, got several days of water for the animals.)
- Have someone to cuddle with, essential in a storm. If there are no people around, get a dog ready. Rush out and buy a kitten or a puppy from a shelter. You won't even notice the storm. If you have a donkey, go out in the night and talk to them. They've been through this before.
- In addition to batteries, generators, bullets and medications, charge up your Kindle. Rush to the bookstore and get some books as well as bread. Make sure your Ipod is fully charged. Honestly, there are worse things in the world than being in the dark for a bit, if it comes that. You can talk to your spouse, your kids, walk around the neighborhood, help people out, read up a storm and listen to great music. Everything is a gift and in our culture there are a lot worse things than having the power go off. Like having it on all day and night.
- Calm yourself. Get your meditation beads ready, put them by the flashlight. Have snacks for the dogs. Bring in firewood. And look on the bright side. If the power goes off, you won't have to listen to these people yelling at you through their screens, telling you all day long how much danger you are in, and all of the mostly dumb things you need to do to prepare. Fear is not a gift, it is a disease.
If fear is a geography, storm are even more so. Another space to cross. In our world, fear is a marketing tool, not a public service. Be prepared for it. It is dangerous.
Some of Maria's friends came storming over to the Studio Barn early this morning to help her move – Mandy Meyer-Hill, Nancy, Bariluk-Smith, Jenna Woginrich. They came in trucks and SUV's and there was no BS, just a quiet, calm focus on packing up all of Maria's stuff, hauling it into cars and trucks and bringing it over to the Schoolhouse Studio. It was an act of love and generosity and it made me feel happy for her and also reflective and sad about the state of men in the world.
Some men have friendships like this, but most don't. I don't. Watching these women work – they were impressive – I fantasized, as I sometimes do about life in a women's world, where women were in charge, making policy setting the tone for work, love and family.
I don't romanticize women, many are far from perfect, and I get most of my nasty mail from angry women, but when I think of a Women's World, I think of a world with no wars, no genocide, no people shooting young girls because they want to go to school, a gentler workplace with more concern for people. I imagine a world where the idea of Mother Earth being healed and protected was not anathema. I think of prisons emptying out – there are very few women in them as compared with men. Shootings would be almost unheard of, as would rape.
I can see a world where friendship is valued, and sensitivity and compassion are nurtured rather than ridiculed. I imagine a political world where people talked to one another,a nd problems were solved rather than people simply being relentlessly attacked, divided, and diminished. I imagine a world in which people made their own choices about their health and their bodies and I cannot imagine women saying the stupid and astonishingly insensitive things about men and their lives that are a staple of the male politician.
In my fantasy I have created a Bedlam Farm Men's Group with Simon, Strut, Rocky, me George Forss, and Red. But it is a fantasy. Simon is very much a male animal, trying to maim and run off an old pony because he is male. Strut jumps all over the hens and chases them around. Red's whole life revolves around pushing sheep around. There is nothing evil about this, this is the work of male animals.
Violence and confrontation seems an integral part of the male psyche – a generalization – but one supported by much of the news. Watching Maria and her friends this morning, seeing them laugh and cry and work together, I thought of the power of women, their strength and humanity. I hope my daughter and I get to see what life could be like in a women's world.