When day of splendour becomes one of conflict with nature

FRIDAY, June 30, was an exceptional day here on the southwest coast, a day of clear, bright sunlight and gales, writes Damien Enright

At lunchtime, I sat out on our sheltered balcony.

When I closed my eyes against the brightness, I thought that I could hear the sea breaking on the beach 200m away but then realised it was the wind gusting through the big beech trees that surround our garden.

The sound of the wind in the trees was uncannily like the sound of the sea breaking on the strand.

The illusion is so real that, with my eyes closed, each time the wind struck I could visualise a wave rushing to engulf me.

What lends the illusion such validity is the measured regularity of the gusts, like the measured beat of waves breaking on a beach.

A stranger, delivered blindfolded to the spot, would be convinced he was on the sea shore.

After each new “wave”, the wind draws back, like an inhalation of breath, or the sound of pebbles drawn down the beach by a receding wave.

The trees gather themselves and fall almost silent.

The wind pauses a moment as if to gather strength, then charges forward in a new assault, like a giant trying to blow out an enormous candle.

It is a living thing. Under its dominion, branches writhe and toss and the leaves turn from dark green to pastel, as if blanching in fear.

After the attack, the wind dies again; the branches fall. The trees wait, shivering.

Once again, the wind slowly, softly inhales.

The trees cannot move, no more than can a headland under the assault of the sea.

Down at the beach, sand is hurled in swathes onto the roadway. In the hotel garden, cabbage palms, ghosts of the topics, toss their heads like Medusas in the grainy air.

Sea and air join forces.

On the bay, whitecaps ride the grey-blue water, manes flying in the wind.

Nature is alive and on the rampage, flexing its muscles, showing us what it can do if we anger it, if we knock it out of kilter, disturb its natural rhythms, its times to rest and times to rage.

June has become March, the times are out of sorts, spring in summer, summer in winter, winter in spring.

Near the village pier, some humans crouch in the shelter of a wall.

They are watching their boats, I think, their livelihood dragging at their anchors, leaping and tossing.

The wind may break their moorings, set them free.

I am passing in the car.

The car bucks and rocks in the blast.

There are trees down, I’m told by a man who hails me.

Workers with chainsaws are clearing the huge trunks, the debris of branches off the road.

It is ironic that this day of splendour is a day of conflict.

Wisps of high cloud scud like insubstantial speedboats across the blue floor of heaven; zephyrs, they would have been called in the past, an invading army. It’s a day when, somehow, one is conscious of being inside the egg of the earth’s atmosphere, the earth itself an egg buffeted by cosmic winds and drifting in — who knows? — perhaps another egg, if that is how space is shaped, if space has any shape — or does it just have tattered edges, trailing off to nowhere?

But nowhere, too, must be enclosed, there must be another shell, beyond.

All life would seem to be contained in eggs and shells — we’re conceived in eggs and spend most of consciousness within the cranium, which is egg shaped.

We look out through lenses polished by the images that have passed across them, that have conditioned our view.

Fond hope, but will unseasonable natural events such as this storm change the view of the climate change deniers?

Nature is fearsome, not to be messed with.

Yet it is delicate: puny Man can drive it into its recent, self-destructive rage.

We’re trapped inside our craniums, on planet Earth, within the stratosphere. We are at Nature’s mercy.

We try to escape with our imagination, our science and space ships. But if the sky collapses, all that we are, is no more... “the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces”.

If we continue to wound Nature, how can it continue to sustain us?

Death by a thousand cuts?

It may be so.

Deep-sea temperatures in the Mediterranean have increased by 3.5% since 2007 and now reach 27C.

Atlantic temperatures aren’t far behind; soon, perhaps, a West Cork Riviera and holidaymakers with sunburnt goose-pimples?

I love extremes of weather; they drive me to bog philosophy.

Or maybe it’s sunstroke, those beeches I hear singing Wagner in the wind...

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