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There is an upside to every downturn

Yesterday was a perfect morning. Did you see it? I happened to be awake just before sunrise. The constellation Orion was low in the sky, his mighty belt bright beyond belief. It was not night, but it was not morning, just yet. Suddenly, long fingers of sunlight reached over the horizon and seemed to gather the last fragments of darkness into a bright fist of fire. The cloud bottoms burned red. The sun was up at last. It was morning after all, a new day, a new dawn of possibility. This all happened in three minutes and I breathed it in. It stayed with me for hours.

Most mornings are like that. Every one seems to orchestrate a drama of hopefulness to start each day. While I am not out of bed every morning at sunrise, I know that it is there. Each one is different. Each one is worth getting up for. I take that on faith, a faith that is proven every day even in the worst of times.

The British poet Percy Shelley wrote about times like these in his poem "Ode to the West Wind." I picture Shelley standing on a hillside above the wild Mediterranean Sea while the autumnal winds drive the waves into a frenzy below his feet.

Shelley was an idealist who dreamed of a better society in 19th century England. He was disappointed again and again. Apparent failure was his closest companion. Eventually he found himself in self-imposed exile. Times were hard, but he still saw opportunity. As he observed in the poem: "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Shelley knew that bitter winds can spread the seeds of future harvests.

Here in Buffalo, we are quite familiar with all sorts of winters:

*The epic winter in 1977 with snow piled up to roof level and cars that had to be abandoned along every highway.

*The October surprise micro-winter that destroyed thousands of trees and wreaked havoc on shrubs, rooftops and power lines.

*The wintry chill of unemployment. Factories are moving out, children are leaving home and family businesses are vanishing.

*The current market conditions. Along with the snow, unemployment and hard times seem to have blown in off the lake. Pundits predict more of the same or worse for the foreseeable future.

And yet, at least in these parts, we know that the worst winters can bring the best springs.

The Blizzard of '77 has spawned myriad tales of heroic adventure. People trekked through snow valleys for a gallon of milk or to check on a neighbor. The National Guard rolled into town to clear the streets in an effective military-style campaign. Soldiers even had to use metal detectors to find cars buried deep.

During the October storm, neighbors ran extension cords between houses to share power. Thousands of new trees have been replanted, mostly by volunteers. That's an act of faith, too.

Bob Dylan wrote, "The Times They Are a Changin' " during an era of unmitigated trouble. He taught us to keep the faith in spite of coming storms. And I believe him.

As I write this, there's quite a lot of snow blowing outside my window. It is getting hard to see where it is going to end. I wonder if it is the usual precipitation or a confetti storm of worthless stock options. In either case, the cleanup crews are ready and hovering.

The morning may bring new challenges to contend with, but I know there are some fine sunrises up ahead. So get up early and check it out. There is always an upside to every downturn.

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