I have survived plenty of internal Armageddons, but the ones that really shake me to my core are environmental events that are climate-driven – otherwise acknowledged as “Events Beyond Our Control” (EBOC).
I recently had yet another unexpected call to check my preparedness, with only a few seconds of warning. While preparing dinner, I heard the distinctive sounds of the mountain behind my home once again on the move. There had been a massive snowfall, followed by a massive rain. I opened the kitchen door listening for clues – avalanche or rock slide – where? In the creek again? Right above me, or to the left? Too loud, too close, lots of rock in it. I’m wasting precious running time. Which direction to run – away from the creek or get in the car parked out front and drive? Processing at lightening speed. Alert husband – “Cliff, ROCK SLIDE!” I must go into the living room to get him. He’s been listening too, wanting to know if it’s abating before he leaves. I say, “Let’s go – grab the headlamp!” I’m in slippers and PJ’s so my priorities are – boots, coat and purse (I’m never losing my ID & wallet again).
When I have more warning (forecasted dangerous rainfalls), I include my computer and the phone.
I quickly turn off the two burners on the stove and out into the dark night of rain we go. I have more momentum than Cliff, who is still pausing to listen to the rocky, thundering cascade that could, at any moment, be the end of our world – Armageddon. I’m half-way to my neighbour’s when the slide halts. Twenty to thirty seconds of Armageddon, and I am shaking from head to toe. I don’t feel reassured that that is all, but because I haven’t had time to put my coat or boots on, and I’m getting cold, I head back into the house. We get to live and breathe yet another day.
I phoned a neighbour who determined that the event had not occurred in the creek beside us or in the creek at the south end of our development. None of us are certain precisely where the slide occurred, but we were all certain it was behind our homes. Hopefully, when the clouds lift, we’ll be able to spot the scar on the mountain.
Once it was determined that no damage was done and no lives lost, it was time to review our practical strategies. I’m convinced that the best plan is to flee – my flight response is powerful. I would still spend precious seconds to attempt to qualify what is actually occurring, to the best of my ability, before sprinting into the dark unknown. Cliff is more pragmatic (his fear factor is at the bottom of the Richter scale). He’s almost convinced me that our A-Frame is engineered to withstand any debris torrent, and would in fact float if carried out onto the lake. One thing I’m certain of – that strategy currently has “heart attack” written all over it – I simply couldn’t stand still, waiting to be carried away. It may be a case of every man and woman for themselves because we truly don’t know the best course of action sometimes. I will always endeavour to carry a few essentials out with me, but oddly I’m not of a mind to prepack anything. Judge away, but for now it simply seems that a get-away bag would represent an in-my-face, daily threat that I don’t need. Because I can’t sell my home and move, I need a small dose of denial.
My friend Lisa, who feels that I’m experiencing, early, the kind of turbulence that may become common for most everyone in time, inquired, “How do we make peace with deep and profound uncertainty? Move away from it? Lean into it? Always have the purse ready?! Never leave anything unsaid?”
I quickly responded: “Acceptance is the only way through I figure. It’s a process. Always have a plan & a back up plan – you don’t want to be responding out of sheer fear.”
There is a strong emotional component that comes with Armageddon. Because I live in the path of debris torrents, I have had lots of practice that most of you won’t have had to prepare you. It would be helpful to understand how capable you are in an emergency – how many balls can you toss and catch in the air in a blink of an eye, in the eye of the storm? Are you fear-based, pragmatic, hopeful, confident? Do you put yourself first or are you willing to sacrifice it all for others? What are your priorities? What are you willing to lose? Are you at peace with death?
Knowing these things about yourself will help you to survive.
Ensure to the best of your ability that your local, provincial and federal governing body has your interest in mind when it comes to mitigating or preventing disasters. Are they securing enough funds to be proactive or will they just cry “Climate change” when the shit hits the fan (something that is still ringing in my ears as I gaze resentfully at the large sign at the entrance to my community claiming that it is not recommended to occupy my home)? Make sure their plan cuts it with you and your community, and that climate change is a top priority. Once you’ve lost everything, it’s too late.
Because I’ve chosen not to move away, over the past nineteen years here I’ve somewhat learned the skill of being a mountain whisperer, and am intimate with my environment. I rely heavily upon this skill. I am always aware of weather patterns, risks and noises, understanding that there’ll be deviations in our changing climate, placing me at a greater risk. I’ve accepted that I would rather live here, a place that is truly a home like no other, and learn to become friends with death as well as life in the new normal.
In the end, is there really any place that will be safer than where I am now? Living off grid, we’ll always have power and water – unlike towns and cities. I’ll grow my own food as long as I can. I have a tight and supportive community that has an extremely low crime rate. I have my own plan that I’ve formulated to the best of my ability. I can allow my husband to have his own plan. Do we have the right plans? Perhaps, perhaps not, but we’re as prepared as we can be, nonetheless, in the scenario of EBOC.