Destruction and Creation

Destruction—and creation—have been up for me lately. As did many others, I personally witnessed the destruction Hurricane Irma wreaked on Miami, which pales in comparison to her impact on the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. Last week we all witnessed further destruction by a major earthquake in Mexico City, and Hurricane Maria did a number on Puerto Rico and neighboring islands.

Three week weeks ago I was humbled by the power of Nature in a different way. Seeing Lava pour out of the land, dramatically mix with the ocean, and in the process begin to create new land mass just a few feet in front of my eyes was one of, if not the most awe-inspiring thing I have seen. Not “awesome,” mind you, because that overused word has become increasingly meaningless, following in the way of “nice” and “great.” This was Awe: real, powerful, humbling, mind-stopping, almost fear-inducing, drop-down-to-your knees Awe.

Driving through the Puna region of the Big Island of Hawaii, one can see the destructive and devastating effects of volcanoes, with roads, buildings and even villages devoured by the unstoppable flow of lava. Yet, equally evident is creation: green sprouts burst through the dark and ragged lava rock fields. Life continues.

As Irma approached as a Cat 5 with a bullseye right on Miami, I woke up in the middle of the Hawaii retreat one night at 2 AM with the realization that I might be retuning home to nothing. The Goddess Temple where I live is one long block from Biscayne Bay. Built in 1929, the house has old windows with flimsy, cheap glass. Only a couple dozen trees stood in the path of 185mph winds headed our way. I only had with me one suitcase with shorts and t-shirts, all I really needed for the retreat I was facilitating. Everything else was back home, at the mercy of Irma’s menacing power.

I grieved, for a bit, mostly my books and the beloved deities and artwork that grace the temple. Soon, however, I realized that I had my laptop with me, what I need to run my mission. Almost everything else could be replaced. What really mattered was that my loved ones be safe—my family, my friends, my spiritual community.

A couple of weeks later, life continues, indeed. Little by little, the clean-up begins. Power lines are replaced. Dead branches are moved to the side of the road. Fallen trees are sawed into pieces. Street lights come back online. Schools and restaurants re-open. People resume their lives and routines. Cars, joggers and cyclists reclaim the streets. Like those sprouts bursting through the impregnable lava, life continues.

In this context, hurricanes and earthquakes can be seen as cleansing and purifying. Particularly in these times of climate change, perhaps they will serve as wake-up calls to reconnect with Nature. Beyond that, maybe we can benefit from the cycles of destruction and creation, death and rebirth, as reminders and clarifiers of what we really value. What matters most to us, when all is said and done? Are we living lives of meaning and purpose? What aspects of ourselves are we ready and willing to let go of? What are we ready to let sprout and take root?


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