“All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”
This is the sight that greeted us one Saturday evening, returning from the glories of the HD opera broadcast to the warm glow of lamplight and this beautiful serenity of white-drifted snow. Who knew then that the night marked the opening of the disastrous Hallowe’en Nor’easter of 2011, a “Perfect Storm” if ever there was one.
Beauty! What a terrible beauty it was.
That warm light that greeted us was extinguished before morning, not to return again for days. Night ruled New England. Power outages and general chaos lasted in worst cases for weeks. In our Commonwealth of Massachusetts the snowfall — predicted to be 8 to 10 inches — accumulated up to 32 inches. A combination of heavy snowfall and near-hurricane winds brought down power lines and trees everywhere.
Worst of all, from the standpoint of sheer beauty, the nor’easter dumped snow on trees that were often still, in October, in leaf. The extra weight, with the ground in some areas still soft from a preceding warm, rainy period, toppled trees and branches by the thousands. Almost the whole lovely avenue of trees lining the entrance road to our community were splintered and ravaged as if by a tornado.
When the snows melted later in November, the lasting ravages were seen even more clearly. All was changed, changed utterly. But no terrible beauty was born, neither to soften nor inspire. From that one night was born, once again, lasting reminders of Mother Nature’s brute strength.
The lines quoted here are a refrain from the poem Easter Rising 1916, by the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. The transformation he refers to happened in the faces of his countrymen as they absorbed the brutal reality of the English response to the Easter Rising of 1916. That brutality transformed what had been a lukewarm desire for independence on the part of the average Dubliner into a fierce determination to have their freedom, whatever the cost. Which was high, very high, in years of bloodshed and strife, but did at last culminate in the establishment of the Republic of Ireland.