Irene and NaNoWriMo

I don’t generally expect Mother Nature to come along and lend a hand with my novel research, but that may happen this weekend. I’ll try to keep the novel in mind as the next couple of jittery days go by until I know exactly how much damage a hurricane can do this far inland — about 55 miles from the Atlantic coast. One reason I never quite finished my 2009 NaNo novel was the research for the hurricane chapter. I have the memories of living through several strong hurricanes, but those are a child’s memories. And the state was Florida, where hurricanes sweep through in all their awesome force.

The novel supposed that climate change was devastating the US and that hurricanes had changed their nature, becoming stronger, and taking paths that they don’t normally take. When a declining inland town in the northeast is sideswiped by one of these monsters, the devastation seals its fate and sends its residents scattering to seek new, less dangerous lives. I have no background for the effects of a hurricane’s outer winds on a town full of wood-frame Victorian houses. Hence the delay.

Climate change and hurricanes are, of course, only one of the features of modern life that most of us would rather ignore as long as possible. But head-in-the-sand has never worked very well, especially when it comes to change that comes slowly and seems less critical — at least until it bursts over our heads and turns our lives upside down.

This year’s NaNo novel will cover different but equally devastating change, the kind that is at work right now, largely obscured by sensational headlines focusing on personalities and exciting events rather than on meaning or long-term consequences. I have to wonder just how much of it will already have shown its teeth by the time the novel had gone through several drafts and a final editing.

May you live in interesting times.

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