As floods, mudslides, fires and winter storms barrage the country, and politicians snarl and hiss at each other and claim to be holier than thou, I can’t help but imagine what my late father would say about it all.

I’m sure it would be something like, “The world’s gone mad.”

I also surmise he’d say we’re getting our comeuppance for treating the Earth — and each other — so badly.

I’m reminded often of Robert Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice.”

“Some say the world will end in fire,/ Some say in ice./ From what I’ve tasted of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire./ But if it had to perish twice,/ I think I know enough of hate/ to say that for destruction ice/ also is great/And would suffice.”

As a child, I listened intently to Frost recite that and other works on an LP record my father brought home. I can hear Frost’s gravelly voice now, proclaiming and insistent, as the record spun and crackled.

As children, we memorized Frost’s more tender “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and the inspiring “The Road not Taken.” We also memorized “Once by the Pacific.”

Ah yes, “Once by the Pacific.” That also runs through my head these days:

“The shattered water made a misty din./ Great waves looked over others coming in,/ And thought of doing something to the shore/ That water never did to land before./ The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,/ Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes./ You could not tell, and yet it looked as if/ The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,/ The cliff in being backed by continent;/ It looked as if a night of dark intent/ was coming, and not only a night — an age./ Someone had better be prepared for rage./ There would be more than ocean water broken/ Before God’s last, ‘Put out the Light’ was spoken.”

As a youth, I loved the dramatic ebb and flow of Frost’s voice, which both delighted and frightened me, particularly in “Fire and Ice” and “Once by the Pacific.”

At various times over the years, when all hell has broken loose, such as is occurring now, his words seem more and more prescient, foreboding. I recite them in my head, to my husband, to friends.

In the last few decades, we’ve experienced wars, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, increased gun violence. And now, those phenomena are coupled with a political arena that is unprecedented in its vulgarity, deceit and disregard for respectful discourse, steeped in greed and grasping for power.

Colby College President David A. Greene, in his Martin Luther King Jr. address Jan. 15 at the Muskie Center in Waterville, asked, “So where is our outrage?” when talking about the ways we value some people’s lives and devalue others based on their standing, wealth, position, gender and color of skin.

Yes, “Someone had better be prepared for rage,” as Frost so aptly declared.

While logic tells me there likely is no connection between the natural disasters occurring everywhere and the political venom that marks our government, my father, I know, would assess it differently.

As a young child, he attended Quaker meeting in Durham with his mother but did not attend a church later in life though he knew the Bible backward and forward and often recited from it and espoused its wisdom throughout his lifetime.

I know he would say that this is payback. It’s more than a warning — it’s a siren blast.

As long as we continue heading into the storm, we’ll allow ourselves to be eaten alive. We’d better sit back and take a breath — and a long, hard look at ourselves and what we are doing.

Political enemies devise ways to suffocate the opposition by creating false, online websites and personalities to fool people into believing the opposite of what is true. Technology is used as a tool to trick and obfuscate, sway elections and buy allegiances.

We’d do well not only to heed the alarms, but to rise to action — to preach and practice kindness, urge cooperation and mediate, insist on tolerance and embrace others, defy injustice and throw the bums out.

Otherwise, there will, indeed, be “more than ocean water broken, before God’s last ‘Put out the Light’ was spoken.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 30 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.