The key to achieving zen-like calm... even during a storm

a clear conscience is the key to a good night’s sleep
The key to achieving zen-like calm... even during a storm

Preparation is key to dealing with storms - both real and metaphorical - but are we prepared for worse storms in the years ahead?

I WOKE in the middle of the night some time ago. Nothing unusual in that because I’m a light sleeper and it doesn’t take much to wake me.

This time, it was the noise of the howling gale outside that disturbed me. I was surprised because I hadn’t seen it coming. It wasn’t in the forecast and when I looked out the window, I saw the recycling bin had been upended outside the gate and was lying on its side.

Thankfully, the contents remained inside, but I could see other debris scattered around the road. A few of the tall trees were straining to defy Mother Nature, but my neighbour had done a good job removing a lot of the dead wood after Storm Eunice came calling so I wasn’t too worried.

The fence at the back of the house had been flattened after that storm and had only recently been repaired, so I was afraid to look in that direction in case it had met the same fate as the bin. I decided to forget about it and go back to bed. Nothing I could do about it now anyway.

As it happened, it survived intact, thanks to the expertise of the builder.

There wasn’t much point lying awake listening to the house being battered, but getting back to sleep wasn’t easy either. My wife has no such difficulty because she can sleep through anything, which reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago.

It’s a tale of a young man who applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked him why he should hire him, he said: “I can sleep through a storm.” This puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man, so he took him on.

A few weeks later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm ripping through the valley. He jumped out of bed and called out for his new hired man, but found him sleeping soundly in the midst of the storm and couldn’t wake him.

Annoyed, he went outside himself and quickly began to check things to see if all was secure. He found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened and a good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The farmer and his wife inspected the rest of the property and they found that all the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements, and the wheat bales had been bound and wrapped in tarps.

The tractor had been moved into its garage and the barn was properly locked tight. The animals were calm, had plenty of feed, and all was well.

The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep through a storm.”

Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for any storm. So, when a storm did actually break, he was not concerned or afraid. He was satisfied when he was going to bed that everything was fine so he could sleep in peace.

Maybe if I had been more like that guy, I would have had the good sense to put the wheelie bin in a safer place when I left it outside.

American author Mitch Albom had his own interpretation of that story, and he said if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business.

Our words will always be sincere; our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of “I could have”, or “I should have”. We can sleep through a storm and when it’s our time to go, our good-byes will be complete.

My father wasn’t a religious man, but he was a decent character and his advice to me was something similar. He said: If you don’t go out of your way to cause harm to anyone, and you give a helping hand to anyone you meet along the way who needs it, you won’t go too far wrong.”

I have never forgotten that.

So, it would seem that a clear conscience is the key to a good night’s sleep but what do you do if you haven’t got one? Or how can you prepare for a storm if you’re not as organised as that farmhand?

Well, you’d better come up with a plan because the future is looking bleak.

Gerald Fleming was a weather forecaster with RTÉ a few years ago and a familiar face. We took comfort from his reassuring wink, but now he has some grim news. After studying long term weather trends, he reckons that change is on the way.

Climate predictions suggest that by 2050, our weather conditions will be warmer overall, especially through the winter months when there will be a noticeable decrease in frost at night.

Our winters will also be wetter, our summers drier, and we will have fewer winter storms. 

The bad news is those storms might be fewer in number, but they could be a lot stronger.

Rainfall may also become far more intense and is likely to be delivered in shorter, more vigorous bursts. Warmer summers could bring heatwaves, adding a significant mortality threat to the elderly and to many others already suffering from poor health.

Heavier winter rain and swollen rivers, and the increased risks from winter flooding, are probably the greatest threats that extreme weather poses to this country, he says.

That’s not good news for my wheelie bin, my fence, or my sleep pattern.

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