Nothing More Than Nothing

It’s March, and in Colorado it’s snowing today! We had a sunny 73-degree day yesterday (23°C) and now there’s over a foot of fresh new snow on the ground. It’s still piling up as the daylight starts to fade. I’ve been warm inside, enjoying the luxury of seeing the beauty of it without having to be somewhere else. It makes me appreciate how much I like to be where I am.

I love the snow! The kid in me remembers the excitement, the delight of running in it, slipping and falling and sliding in it, eating it, throwing it, and the steamy wool smell of warming up after playing in it. As a grownup in my working years I lived in warm, sunny places — Texas, Thailand, Taiwan, and Southern California — until Stormy and I retired from regular work and went to Bulgaria as Peace Corps volunteers. We were so glad to get reacquainted with seasons! The sheer delight of seasonal changes included extremes of weather and temperature that we had not felt in years. It awakened those childhood memories for both of us. When we moved to Colorado a few years later we came into the realization that it’s something that we love. Change.

We’ve seen a lot of change in our lives. (I know, you don’t want me to start with the “When I was a kid” stories.) I went to a panel discussion about climate change last night, and a friend of mine has written a book on the matter. Harlow Hyde, served with us in Bulgaria. His book is titled Climate Change, of all things.1 Harlow is a numbers guy, and he has a serious background as a student of weather trends. He backs up his thesis with solid facts, and an engaging sense of humor. He rigorously lists all the big factors of climate, including the anthropogenic one (that’s us!) He lists and evaluates various links between human activity and rising global temperatures. After all, every single one of us little heat engines spend our lives turning food into energy, throwing off heat all the time! Then there’s the way we burn stuff, move stuff around, and make stuff out of other stuff. Just a little bit of heat from each activity, each individual one of us making hardly enough to matter. (He repents, actually, for his part in this travesty.) Well, I don’t want to give away the plot and you should really read it yourself. It’s an excellent and well-researched piece of work.

And politics — talk about change! What, are there changes in the country? Um, yes. What happened to Hope and Change? We’re seeing Panic and Change! Frenzy and Change! Fear and Change! But change, as always, is the constant. We live in it, react to it, and make it happen — or, depending on the subject, try to keep it from happening. Ha! Might as well try to keep the sea from rising.

Take closing the borders, sending people back to where they came from, for example. Can anyone have a civil conversation on that subject? I wonder. I know people who are working with refugee resettlement agencies, helping war refugees — refugees from bombing and fires and knives and threats and killings, who have lived in refugee camps for years and years, in tents or temporary shelters with freezing winter huddle-around-a-fire misery or desert scorching hot blazing-sun misery, relieved to be out of mortal danger but living in uncertainty and frustrated with slow-molasses bureaucracy and hopeful, ever hopeful of a life where they can work and raise their children in peace. And I know other people who call that kind of work, helping those people settle in America, dangerous, foolhardy, even treasonous. We can’t know they won’t bring their wars here, they say, and turn on us. They’ll bring their laws with them. They’ll take our jobs from us. Our economy can’t bear the burden. We can’t bear the burden.

snow treeToday’s snowfall is a burden on the trees. It’s heavy and wet, as is normal for snows this late in the season, so I put on my big-boy boots and went out with a long stick to knock the big fat clumps off some of the branches that were sagging heavily under the weight. We’ve had branches, big ones, break off with that kind of load. I couldn’t reach all of them that needed it, but it was the lower ones anyway that were reaching out farther, straining and nearly defeated under the heaviest loads. Needless to say, they were greatly relieved.

I thought of a little story about snowflakes. I read it as part of a 50th Anniversary memorial ceremony a few years ago, for Peace Corps volunteers who had died in service. It was called Nothing More Than Nothing.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coalmouse said. “I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavily, not in a raging blizzard – no, just like in a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off.”

Having said that, the coalmouse flew away.

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

  — from New Fables, by Kurt Kauter (1913-2002)2

One more. Perhaps.

_________________________

  1. Climate Change: A Brief History of the Last 50 Million Years. It’s available on amazon.com.
  2. “Also Sprach der Marabu,” from Neue Fabeln, published in German, 1973. This popular translation is from Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, by Joseph Jaworski. In the epilogue of that work, Jaworski quotes the story, having seen it as part of a videotaped documentary presented by the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor. 

12 thoughts on “Nothing More Than Nothing

  1. Best thing about the “blizzard”…No talk of politics, on face book! Or at least on my pages!!! Except for your little mention, I’d been politics free, this evening… Have a lovely evening. See you tomorrow.

  2. Bruce, i love what you say and how you say it. I love the terminology you use and the values you express. I appreciate your certainty about how things should be and your fearlessness in the face of other opinions which are not as generous as yours. I’m so lucky i know you and Stormy. Come and visit me any time and bring your whole family.
    Love,
    Judi

    • Ah, dear friend, I don’t think I’ve ever been certain of how things should be, but I can see what an ideal world look like. Fearlessness is something reserved for the uninformed, and on that basis I claim my qualification. We’re all lucky to have each other, aren’t we? You spoil us with your hospitality when we visit. Isn’t it your turn to come see us? Let us know when and we’ll leave a light on.

  3. So glad to have joined your blog and hear you “talking” again, even when it is not about my fav subject – Bulgaria! Hugs to Stormy too!

    Seattle Kathy Sue

    • I’m happy you stopped by! It’s good to be in touch, on any subject. I guess I think of most anything I write here as being related to Bulgaria in some way. I have been almost obsessively returning to the subject of refugees, for example, ever since a few years ago when we started reading about the masses escaping violence in Syria, heading from the Middle East into Europe and starting to overwhelm Bulgaria in their desperation. Then too, anytime I write about living in peace and dignity, helping each other, that’s Bulgaria.

    • For some reason I feel like having a Coke. Thanks for your generous assessment of my singing. Perfect harmony, huh? You’re such an optimist. No wonder you were always Mom’s favorite!

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