February is like the Wednesday of winter. Wednesday, in the middle of the work week, is the day when the novelty of the new week has pretty much worn off, but the weekend is still just a speck on the distant horizon. Once through Wednesday though, you can begin to see daylight.
February is a good month to get through, too. It seems we have succeeded in doing it for another year. Good news if you consider the alternative.
The longer the time normally occupied by winter ticked away with mild temperatures and no snow to speak of, winter-haters were divided into two groups. There were the optimists who said there wasn’t going to be a winter and the pessimists who insisted we would pay for the mild weather later.
Winter-lovers pronounced just the reverse. It has been an unsettling and only partially satisfactory season for both groups, a winter that was reluctant to get started but once it got underway, made up for lost time. Unsettling because if you are looking for something you can count on, these days the weather is not a place where you are going to get satisfaction. The weather is truly changing
The appearance of significant extra minutes of light each day is somewhat reassuring, guaranteeing that spring is just around the corner like it always has been at this time every year. But what is a flock of fifty Bohemian Waxwings doing flying along the shore, looking for food, pitching wherever there is a patch of tuckamore not buried in snow. These birds rarely come here at all, and certainly not so early as this.
Does it mean an early spring? Or does it mean that the Bohemian Waxwings are scouting out new territory to adapt to a new reality. If that is so, does that new reality mean more horrific hurricanes like Igor and other shocking events like the Christmas Eve storm surge that did so much damage along the northeast coast? Unsettling times for certain. But if I am feeling uncertain and bemoaning my lot as I say goodbye to this Wednesday of Winter 2011, there are others who are facing a future much more uncertain than mine.
I could be living in a country where, if you speak out against your government, men with guns come to your house at night and take you away never to be seen again. I could be living in a country where if you want to change the uncertainty in which you live, you must take to the streets and risk your life to bring down your government.
I was profoundly inspired by the courage and unwavering direction of the young people of Egypt. Despite living in a very repressive country where no dissent was per- mitted, they took hold of whatever technology they were able to get their hands on.
Never mind that Facebook was created by a young genius and his frat-boy friends in order to rate how hot were the young women they went to school with. The young Egyptians, however, found a legitimate use for this powerful communication tool: communication.
With it they co-ordinated the demonstrations in the center of Cairo that finally chased Hosni Mubarak from office. Their peaceful protests also inspired the Egyptian army, who refused to use violence against them. It remains to be seen how the story of democracy in Egypt will unfold but to date it has been a model of peaceful determination.
What a contrast with what is happening in other African and Middle East dictatorships.
I thought I would weep with joy when I saw the television footage of the young demonstrators sweeping up the debris left behind in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “It is our country now,” one young woman said. “ We must take care of it.”
In a few weeks I will begin taking care of the damage from Igor and the storm surges. As I rebuild my wharf, replace the rock wall at the top of the beach and put my outhouse back in place, I will have no way to be sure that anything I erect will withstand what may be the new reality of climate change. What I do know is that my uncertainty is nothing compared to that faced by the courageous young people of Egypt.
I wish them all the good luck in the world.