Without Warning

Carol A. Hand

The long-awaited spring is finally here
Kneeling on earth, hands in the dirt
tending resting gardens with love
not knowing what has survived winter
or what will grow once planted

Blissfully unaware in the north wind
that disaster struck just across the river
I’ve grown accustomed to dark smokestack clouds
billowing toxic fumes from factories to the east
I’ve learned not to breathe deeply
when the wind blows from the east

View of the refinery fire from my yard across the St. Louis River, April 26, 2018


Those to the south were not so lucky yesterday
Black toxic towers rose and blew south
when the oil refinery exploded and caught fire
Though the disaster was just a few miles away
no warning sirens sounded in my neighborhood
I guess the city saves those for periodic tests

People on this side of the river went on with their lives
not knowing the city of Superior shut down schools
or that a “shelter in place” order for my neighborhood
was issued for this morning when the wind
was due to shift and blow from the east

Another view of the Superior fire from my neighborhood


I think of people in Syria, Palestine, and Puerto Rico,
Houston, Florida, and San Bernadino
Lives lost and homes destroyed with little warning
yet we live unaware of disasters waiting to happen
hoping that we won’t be downwind when they do

Addressing the threat is not a simple undertaking
Assigning blame and expecting others to fix this
are not constructive responses to complex predicaments
Perhaps this is a topic for students and all of us to explore
How can we bring communities together to dialogue?
To listen respectfully to diverse perspectives,
negotiate a shared future vision, and find common ground
that inspires wise collective action?

The imminent danger has passed here – this time

38 thoughts on “Without Warning

  1. I didn’t realize that was so close to you. So many imminent dangers, and you’re right, if they can’t be solved collectively, I fear they cannot be addressed or solved.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Diane. I find it hard to believe I didn’t hear or feel the explosions. I think I was taking a shower at the time. When I was walking my dog and noticed the dark clouds, I just assumed they were just a more intense version of the usual exhaust. I didn’t learn about the explosion until my daughter called to let me know.

      The situation is so complex. There aren’t a lot of jobs here and sadly, we have an infrastructure that requires oil-power for so many things. My colleague told me a story today about an exchange between her son and granddaughter. Her granddaughter was visiting her father’s work place in Superior. As they sat in his car waiting to leave, they watched the fire and smoke. “Someone needs to so something about this,” she said. “I wish it were that easy,” her father replied. “It’s up to all of us to be involved. The car we’re sitting in right now is part of the problem. It’s why we have a refinery.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We live in the world we’ve created, don’t we. Even the weather is no longer under the strict tutelage of “mother nature” but reacting to the vagaries of man’s market place mentality imposed upon the planet. Hopefully for you and yours you are far enough or upwind enough from the dying dinosaurs of nuclear power plants on the east coast. Barring a Trump-instigated war, these are American’s next greatest upcoming disasters, predicted to surpass anything Chernobyl and Fukushima has thrown at the world.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So true, Sha’Tara. It’s tempting to say “but I didn’t build oil pipelines or refineries by the lake,” or “I’ve never agreed with the use of nuclear energy,” but I benefit from their existence even as they pose dangers. I do often ask myself how it would be possible for me to live without a car, heat for my house in cold Minnesota winters, or electricity. I’ve done some of those things in the past, but as one aging person alone I’m not sure how to do so. Hence the conundrum of how to shift to other alternatives when they aren’t available – here – now….


  3. Dangerous and toxic. Your reflection offers that it puts you at risk, but you also compare others worse off daily, yet the resolution is in the – you can’t really compare, but you can empathise and you can dialogue. I like the dialogue idea, very empowering and restorative.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol, I’m so glad you’re safe! But why no alarms? Many of us live relative safe lives, I am all too aware how lucky I am, to have peaceful surroundings and comfort of a life in the West. So many issues around the world can only be brought to a halt through negotiation, through finding the common ground, wanting to change their lives for a better safe community for all … I pray it happens … a small start would be a huge step. Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Annika. I honestly don’t know why there were no alarms. I read the account of someone who works in Superior near the refinery. No one at the plant or city let her office know what was happening until after she read something on Facebook. I only found out was happening from my daughter who happened to be in Superior and messaged me about the dark clouds surrounding the school. It seems on one was coordinating communication. I had to go online to local news to find out more and I wondered how many people were able to do so.

      Normally, my life here is relatively peaceful, but just across the river there are industries like the refinery that post a risk to all. Still, I am grateful for the peace and safety that I experience most days while being mindful that they are really an illusion and a luxury. The refinery incident reminds me of the urgency to do what I can to raise awareness and encourage knowledge-driven collective action.

      Hugs to you, too, dear friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “How can we bring communities together to dialogue?”

    That’s a very important question! To answer this, these communities need to create a ground beyond the daily interests. Capitalist-imperialists always have a connection between themselves. Today, if any of these monopolies are harmed in one country, or if goes to the case of harm, another monopoly in another country is helping to balance it’s situation. It could be a bank, an oil company or a weapons company, or etc.

    But ordinary people, who are living the same distresses in different parts of the world, but who speak in different languages, cannot have a connection. If these ordinary people can establish a tie, if they support (for example) the Irish workers action in today from the other countries, and if the employees of same sectors of the same industry in the other countries go on strike in the same time with Irish workers, the capitalist elites will kneel down.

    My answer, “Workers of the world, unite!”, my earthling friend Carol.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thought-provoking insights, Migo and WD. Uniting workers worldwide is, indeed, a worthy goal and daunting challenge. It’s difficult enough for neighbors who speak the same language to awaken to the common threats and oppression they all share. Life has returned to “normal” here, as if there is no longer any cause for concern. Bills to pay and TV shows to watch when we’re bored keep us from thinking too deeply, I fear, until a crisis that doesn’t easily disappear forces us to wake up..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, people can go back to their everyday lives and have the ability to forget the same mistakes until they live again. For example, it does not apply to animals (usually animal species that live in their natural environment). Again, for example, land animals leave the dangerous environments instinctively (with human’s language), and do not come back at the same place, or strive to come. This instinctual definition is wrong for me, actually. According to my opinion, what humans call instinct is that many animals have a highly developed sense of smell.

        This odor hazard alarm is a very impressive precaution for them. However, people have lost their sense of smell very high, and their ability to understand the transitions and differences between the smells. This disconnect from nature, leads to misleading for people make their own danger sequences. While it is one of the first dangers to be hungry, to go home without bread, a toxic spread damages its own health is staying as a danger in the lower level in the human mind. For this reason, it is easy to forget and be thrown into the background. In fact, putting body health in danger is a bigger life threat than hunger. But, as I have pointed out, this is codded low level as the danger sequence.

        Besides, there is something I want to tell you, my earthling friend. When I have first read to your post, I thought it was just a poem, imaginary, it was not real. I could not understand that was an event you have lived through. This is my fault; and maybe I need to stop reading my earthling friends’ posts in the morning hours immedietly after I woke up.:) When I have realized that was real, I was embarresed, because I had not said anything about your distress; it seemed such a “ignored your distress” by me. Probably you did not see like that(because you are very kind and good), but that was like that for me. I am sorry; and I hope you and your loved ones would never live again same situation. Also WD wants you to be in safe and well too!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Migo and WD. There’s no need for you to feel bad about your previous comments. You raised crucial issues about the need for a more global perspective when considering and dealing with the oppression of people by the corporate and ruling elite. Sending gratitude and best wishes to you. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol, I’m glad you are safe and that the air has been cleared by Mother Nature. This very sad situation is replicated day after day in ways and places we know nothing about. As a teacher, you bring these critical issues to your students to consider. What an important gift to our future, teachers like you. Be well and safe dear Carol. 🌞💕

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Carol, I heard about this. Terrible. Good to hear your air was okay. You are correct, disaster can strike at a moment’s notice. I’m not sure if we will ever be prepared for every disaster (manmade or natural). Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Carol, Tubularsock is happy that you and your dog are as safe as you can be living near a constant time bomb.

    Life has always been as fragile as the changing of the wind. Even worse mankind has always made a practice of pissing into that wind and THEN being surprised of the results.

    The solution is unlikely to change because we have all been taught and propagandize to believe that, “what we ARE is what we acquire”! EVEN if what we have is what is killing us! We have been taught that we only need more.

    Of course, you know all this. But Tubularsock is just used to singing to the breeze.

    Stay safe and take care and remember, trust your dog’s nose and forget that siren!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Carol, the threat you and others in your community faced did not reach me here on the West Coast. Glad to learn that you have escaped the worse.

    Can we come together to find common ground that inspires wise collective action? Those in control of the narrative cannot allow such action if they are to remain in power. For those of us who share this vision, we have to continue planting the seeds of respect, tolerance, openness, and compassion. A time is fast approaching when prevailing circumstances will force communities to unite or perish. For the American people of Puerto Rico that time has already come.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing such crucial insights, Rosaliene. It is true. Americans in Puerto Rico have directly experienced devastating consequences and they are living what it means to confront daunting challenges and rebuild community in new ways.

      Liked by 1 person

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