It is a soft quiet Sunday on the Gulf coast. Downtown the annual arts festival must be a busy,  and the time when artists realize in the last few hours that its time for a sale! Out on the barrier island of Santa Rosa the beachcombers are luxuriating in a November day in the 80s.  Bet the water is tourmaline emerald. King and Spanish mackerel are being hauled out over the Pensacola Beach Pier and dolphins and reds are teasing the fishermen.

I’m home atop my upstairs condo with a view of old oaks and blue sky filling with white stratus clouds. I feel a change.  The last few days of cloudless, warm easy days may be on their way out chased by the Polar Express.

On my mind are friends and family and Americans in the Northeast in devastating circumstances who are trying to heat a cup of coffee, stay warm, and wonder whether they’ll work tomorrow or kids to school. The heavy realizations crowd in on us: we  are naked and unprepared for the storms on our horizon.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, with our sense of being exceptional, to respond to the call to refrain or curtail our fossil-fuel addiction. We’ve had nearly 50 years to seriously think of it and do something but we have not. Now that sinks into the national consciousness with the familiar boardwalk caving into the sea.

Each time a disaster happens there is an opening, because “things as usual” are paused. Into these moments of suffering and confusion are opportunities for insight and action. We’ve experienced this phenomenon personally when sickness or tragedy sweep aside the normal flow of our work and home lives; we may learn something new…or not.

For years I’ve wondered at America’s poor ability to learn from her mistakes. Great wealth and a land of abundance and a hard working people have staved off this fact. Now it sits with us, an unwelcome guest. Time is running out.

We should welcome this uninvited hulking presence, put on a pot of coffee and have a conversation. Let down the guard and fess up. It would do us good and maybe lead to some moderation in our behavior, and maybe even more.