Natural Tendencies:Critical Encounters’ personal narratives on Human/Nature

By The Columbia Chronicle

by Frankie Migacz

It was the Fourth of July. I was in Canada and in a canoe. It was 40 degrees, and Mother Nature had brought the fireworks. Thin white spindles of lightning wove their way through the asphalt sky, illuminating the obsidian water with fleeting spider webs of light.

Rain fell hard, cold and fast. In the brief moments of visibility, the dark water looked as if it teemed with millions of hungry fish desperately scouring the black surface. My thin windbreaker stuck to my skin like Saran Wrap, and the cold numbed my limbs to rubber. The trees on either side of the channel strained against their roots and the wind whipped off pine needles.

My aluminum canoe was being buffeted around by waves like a paper sailboat. Every dark undulation threatened to consume the craft; every crest hungrily lapped at the sides of the vessel, longing to swallow it whole and digest it amongst the algae and sand. I was terrified, but it was something more than the fear of being drowned or struck by lightning; it was feeling that there was nothing I could do about it. Like a turtle on its back, I was vulnerable and helpless.

There are few things on Earth that can render our species powerless, few things that can rival the human spirit. Nature is one of those select things, and for that reason, we mere mortals fear it. But like all things we fear, we also respect it. We place nature on a pedestal and create something elegant and beautiful, ugly and terrible. If it weren’t for humans, a storm would simply be an overabundance of moisture-the expansion of air and electric currents. But because we cannot fully control nor understand the forces of nature, they have become Gods and Demons-myths and legends. It is only because of our existence that tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are catastrophes. Without us they would just simply happen, becoming grand spectacles without an audience. Without the prospect of human death or mass destruction, these disasters don’t seem nearly as horrifying.

Realizing the possibility of both the former and latter was very prominent in my current predicament. I was mortified. The lightning had intensified to the point where it seemed the world was being lit by an all-encompassing strobe light. The thunder had become a constant barrage of sound, a deep bass that shook the water. Paddling furiously, the other three canoes and I managed to come ashore on a beach. It wasn’t much, just a speck of brown on an island the size of a small house. After failing to set up camp, we threw a tarp over two canoes, crawled under and fell asleep to the sound of the rain’s drum roll on the plastic.

The next morning I woke to the mournful calls of loons and emerged into a completely different world. The air smelled sweet, a mixture of pine and morning dew. Wisps of clouds clung to the surface of the lake as remnants of the distant, turbulent night. The water was calm and clear-the reflections of loons flew upside-down over the core of the lake, leaving the still waters untouched and unmoved. I sat on a half submerged boulder sipping iodine-purified water, smiling and thinking that this was the most beautiful morning I had ever experienced. The storm seemed like a hazy nightmare, a distant memory that was no longer tangible; I squinted as the sun peaked over the pine trees painting the lake a molten gold.

Nature is like a rose. No matter how many times you get pricked by the thorns, the beauty of the flower will always be worth the pain.

Though we know that nature may hurt us now and again, a simple sunrise will keep us coming back for more.