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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The autumn of our enchantment

Jaime R. Vergara

"The falling leaves drift by my window, the falling leaves are red and gold," goes the lyrics and tune of our remembering. We are up on the eleventh floor of our Friendship Villa so forget the falling leaves drifting by my window. The leaves of autumn are more like trampled green on the sidewalk still in their limbs stomped over by pedestrians as the leaves in twigs fall in toto with the sudden frost and snow dusting on the ground this morning. The snow on the ground was the first this season.

We were duly warned. A week ago, the air suddenly got chilly and our Russian hat with the earflaps saw service under the hood of our parka. For half an hour, fluffy snow fluttered down like feathers and for a while, I thought that we might have an early White Christmas. In September, the long johns made it to the street as we shivered our follicles into the wind.

The "red and gold" comes unmistakably as a beaut! There are whole fields of yin xin trees (ginseng, source of vitamin E supplement tablets) on the foothills on Changbaishan (the volcanic crater with the crystal clear lake on the border of China and North Korea) two years ago that turn brilliantly yellow with the winter cold at the onset of autumn.

We have the same trees next door at the Dalu Science and Technology garden’s kitty corner from our university. I must have spent a half hour in the wind just gawking at how majestic the straight trunks are as they reach into the sky before shedding their golden leaves to the wind.

We are a bit cozy here, with the steam plant of the provincial government releasing its hot water a week earlier than the scheduled first of November. The weather has gotten more nippy than usual. The regular student dorms do not have similar amenities so woolen pullovers and their synthetic copiers prevail. Nature overwhelms our romantic character as we drool over its colors, even as its cussedness is more manifest elsewhere. Sandy whipped a fury flooding sewage canals, toppling cranes, uprooting trees, making plastic plates and flipping pancakes out of the homes and roads of New England, and sending Bloomberg’s NYC back to the sandbox.

There is poetic justice, according to some observers of the U.S. presidential election, where Obama and Romney skirted around the issue of global warming in their rhetoric, most obviously during the debate. Anthropomorphic naturalists personify Sandy as a voice dramatically speaking with a vengeance, and though the freaky Frankenstorm is widely regarded by many scientists as a lovechild of global warming, we will still have the diehard flat-earthers to make the loud denials. Now, Catholic evangelicals join the fray lending intelligent cosmic rationale to the incidences of climate change.

Elsewhere, Guanxi is flooding like the Lijiang (Li River) had never seen water before. It and neighbors Hainan and North Vietnam (Yuenan) are taking their turn after Bangkok got the drenching and drubbing last year. The intense occurrences of drought and abrupt atmospheric conditions elsewhere unmistakably have the marks of climate change.

Mother Nature can be beautiful, and in our Ilocano morantic (romantic in English) heart, present us with the colors of autumn and enchantment is the order of our sentiment. But there is a cussedness of nature that defies our imagined control over the elements. The human race since the enlightenment separated our self and our rationality (cogito, ergo, sum) from its umbilical ties to the processes and forces of nature. We thought nature was a providential gift for our privileged use, which we then turn around to abuse! One does not need to live in the mines of Shanxi and Kentucky to understand how we devastate the environment for a pound of coal and ore. Nature’s systems operate way outside our ken, and definitely far from our control.

The oracles of the fallen dogwoods and of Hollywood are having a field day given that the image of December 2012 as the end of the world has become a fixture of this year’s journey. Praying communities are on their knees in earnest to invoke divine intervention, not unlike the ancient Egyptian’s claim to justify the priestly sacrifice because it ensured the sun rising in the morning!

So, we will heed our own oracle. That would be from Nate Silver of the NYTimes who in the last presidential election forecasted the winner in 49 out of 50 States. He does not rely much on statistics, which makes him anathema to the battalion of pundits and political analysts that populate the 24/7 lights of the Boston-New York-Baltimore-Washington, D.C. corridor.

Nate Silver does not think the Obama-Romney tiff is going to be close at all. He predicts that Obama will run away with the election, nay, will breeze to victory with a 75 percent chance of winning. He is even putting his money where his prediction is. He uses a simple method of averaging polls to predict outcome, earning him the label of a fraudulent snake-oil salesman.

The horizon from our perch sees a moderately popular incumbent running against a wavering uncharismatic politico from a party of conservatives, with the latter not even liked by the rightists in his camp. Maybe, I am more optimistic of the maturity of the American voter but why would one see a close contest on this one?

Told you. There is enchantment in my autumn!

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