A few days ago, someone—not me!—invited Tropical Storm Fay over for a visit. She didn’t stay long, nor did she do much damage. She brought a lot of rain with her, but, to be honest, we needed it, so what’s the harm? After a string of 90+ degree days, it did me some good to sit on the porch and listen to the rain hit the tin roof while I drank my morning coffee.
About 4 o’clock that afternoon, Fay politely took her leave. The sun came out, cool, dry air along with it. And that got me to thinking: what will it be like after this storm—you know the one I’m talking about—is gone? Will we get at least one lovely evening under clearing skies, or will be right back in summer’s steamy oven? Your guess is as good as mine.
I’d like to think we’ve earned a respite, but Mother Nature makes no promises. Nor does Human Nature. As tropical storms go, Fay gave us nothing more than a glancing blow. But this other storm has done more damage. I’d like to think we can repair a lot of that damage quickly: restore the world’s trust, heal the sick, and begin the painful process of reconciliation we so desperately need. And if such harm has been done with a spate of ill-conceived executive orders and a divided Congress, why can’t it be undone by a more sensible Administration and a government that is truly of, by, and for the people?
I’d like to think that could happen, but the problem, of course, will be the malicious residue that remains in our body politic after this storm passes. In this space last week, I wrote about the tipping point that has become close to the breaking point. A nautical friend informed me that to sailors, this is called the Limit of Positive Stability. For my friend’s beautiful sailboat, the LPS is 122 degrees: anything less than that and the boat will right itself; anything greater and the boat turtles and he’s wet on both sides.
I think we’re close to our nation’s LPS. Fay’s departure and the cool, dry evening that followed gave me hope that we will be able to recover, that our ship will right. But it’s too soon to know for sure. Only one thing is certain: the work of recovery, be it political, economic, medical, or racial, will be laborious. Fay left and a high pressure system waltzed in behind her. It won’t be that easy after this other storm has blown itself out.
I would give you hope, but it’s not mine to give. I would promise you calm seas and a following wind, but that’s a promise I can’t make. We’ll just have to see what comes on the heels of this storm. We’ve been challenged before and will be again. No President in our history was ever more challenged than Abraham Lincoln and no one ever articulated our hope for a better future than he did in his first Inaugural Address:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Fay left quietly enough. In her wake, the evening light was clean, the air was fresh. Let’s strive for that.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com