A Terrible Beauty is Born

I had meant to write more about Ireland and Dublin (as if you haven’t already heard enough, but I’m still processing), but I was going through my trip photos and stopped at this one, taken through the window of my return flight.

It’s a good photo, though it misses some details because the plane was moving and by the time I realized what I was seeing we were past the point where I could capture it.

That’s Greenland, much coveted by the current occupant of the White House. That misty river dead center is  what I think must be a miles-wide spill of slowly melting snow, the source of the white dots that speckle the sea like candy dots. They are chunks of ice and snow breaking off to melt, gradually, into the ocean and swell the rising waters.

For a nanosecond, when I found this photo, I was both struck by the beauty of it and horrified by what it meant and that I could find it beautiful. Humans are complicated animals. And because I had been in Ireland, I flashed to the words of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats: “All changed changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.” Climate crisis is not what Yeats was writing about, of course, but I think he’d understand.

Because I am a complex mix of optimist, pessimist, coward, fighter, and science fiction writer, I want to believe that, having created conditions where the planet’s only response is to reshape itself into a place where we may not have a place, humans will find ways to fix those conditions and my kids and their kids will have a planet to live on which they do not have to battle to survive. In my own way, this photo reminds me that nothing will get done if I don’t roll up my sleeves and join the fight.


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


A Terrible Beauty is Born — 3 Comments

  1. Some people march. Some people make phone calls or write post cards. Some people write for or edit subversive political satire anthologies.

    All of us need to vote our conscience and not be zombies pushing the button or filling the box as told by others who do not have our best interests at heart.

  2. Methinks everyone should see this along with your final paragraph describing the photo – it’s nearly as powerful as the ‘Whole Earth’ photo.