As the anniversary of the October 2006 snowstorm approaches, my mind turns, along with the leaves, to the long-term implications of that "chaotic" event. But it occurs to me, in thinking about the oddity of that climatic glitch, that there may be something I might call "reverse chaos theory."
Let me back up before I go forward. Chaos theory -- which we know as the "butterfly effect" (the discovery of the weather prediction work of Edward Lorenz in 1961) -- says that "small changes in initial conditions produced large changes in the long-term outcome." Lorenz shared his conclusions in a breakthrough scientific paper wonderfully titled: "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?" The poetry of the title well may be a reason that chaos theory became so popular.
Now to go forward. After the storm, the Town of Amherst marked with orange dots two noble maple trees in front of my house for cutting and uprooting. I was saddened by this prospect.
But a year passed and nothing happened. So, being human, hope took wing; but then, alas, cutters did come. I asked them, as an act of mercy, to leave me two commemorative stumps, as it were. They were puzzled (I dare not say stumped), but cordial and did so.
I wondered, among other things, where the squirrels who nested in those trees would go, and I worried about how they would weather a harsh Buffalo winter. For a while they disappeared. Then this spring, I noticed that they had returned to harvest the crab apples on a tree that wasn't wrecked by the storm.
And then I observed that the squirrels were using the stumps as picnic tables, so to speak, and leaving the cores of the apples on the surface. I suppose, looking at the world from a squirrel's point of view, that these stumps were magnificent banquet tables that nature, with the inadvertent help of man, had provided for them.
I now have forgotten more or less the maple trees and don't dream of their return. Instead, I delight in sitting at my desk in the early morning and watching my furry friends snag an apple and hop over to the banquet table where they can munch on a truly "movable feast."
In addition to this visual and festive pleasure, I have the added one of knowing that I shall have no raking to do this year. I even may save a few bucks in a time of economic downturn.
This chain of events -- far from my initial apprehensions about the coming of the chain-saws -- leads me to formulate what I call "reverse chaos theory." That is, in short form: "Large changes in initial conditions produced small changes in the long-term outcome." Well, small for mankind, if large for the squirrels.
I don't expect to get a doctorate in meteorology for this hypothesis, but it may serve as consolation to others who mourn the loss of beloved trees. These folks should take heart. They may notice next time they look out their windows that some chipmunks are having a tea party, or its equivalent, on some stumps that were saved.
This notion of mine is related to what I call the "Gettysburg Principle." This says that the clapping you hear may not be for you, but a belated response to someone else's eloquence. It sounds like a downer, but it means as well that a silent response to one's efforts may echo and resound in the years to come. I guess you could call this "reverse appreciation."
Hmmm, maybe I should have gone into science, not literature. But if so, I might have become known for my quack theories.