Monday, November 8, 2010

Force Majeure

Now that the racing season is over for rowing, I was looking forward to some peaceful, smooth, undemanding rows in the morning. The change to Standard Time yesterday meant that there would be light at 6:30 a.m., the time when we row. So I went down to the rowing club this morning anticipating calm water and weather.

While it was somewhat windy, four of us were enjoying a good row in a quad in the protected waters of the Norwalk River. Then, suddenly, a huge snow squall came out of nowhere, carried by wind gusts of over 40 MPH. Our boat was literally blown backwards! We rowed with all of our skill and power to make forward progress into this stiff headwind with white-capped waves washing over the bow of the boat. We struggled to keep the boat from being blown into the muddy river bank. The sleet pelting us felt like needles.

When we finally made it back to our dock we had a new challenge. The dock was covered with ice from the snow/sleet mixture! Somehow, we got the boat out of the water and up the icy ramp without injury to us or the boat.

Once again, I was reminded of how powerful the forces of nature can be. The term "force majeure" is defined as "an overwhelming or irresistible force." To experience nature's power is an awesome and heady experience. I emerged from this battle with nature with a sense of awe at nature's power and a sense of gratitude that I and my fellow rowers survived this force majeure.

Experiences like these can be thrilling. Experiencing nature's power (and surviving it) made me feel more fully alive. I also have greater respect for those forces beyond our control. This was just a small taste of nature's power. I have renewed respect and empathy for those who must deal with more dangerous force majeures: tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Not everyone survives nature's unpredictable and overwhelming power.

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