COMMENTARY: Water is a Powerful Change-maker

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On New Year’s Day as I drove Route 110 toward Westford, I noticed the glint of sunshine on ice chips along the roadway.

I don’t know why but they made me think of my two sons who had both just departed for their respective homes in other states.

An ocean of homesickness washed over my throat and flooded my chest like the sea surge that came a few days later. I was drowning in the realization that our little team of three, Christopher, Jesse and me — which had been through thick and thin over the years — would seldom be in the same room again.

Three days later when a terrifyingly-named bomb cyclone hit the East Coast at high tide I watched the videos of a flooded parking lot in Gloucester and knee-deep flowing water in Boston’s Seaport District.

Water is life. It is a recreational resource, a transportation catalyst, a cleanser, a home for sea creatures, a deep and mysterious environment seldom glimpsed by humans, and a conductor of electricity.

Frozen water is the substance of ice chips that glint on the roadway and remind me that my children, now in their mid-20s, grew up, created lives with new people, and are making their homes in new places. How quickly motherhood came and went.

The bomb cyclone and days of arctic temperatures accentuated the isolation I felt as the holidays ended.

It made me wonder if weather would dominate lives in ways it never has before as we adjust to a rising sea level that has the power to take  lives and damage property.

Rituals comfort. Change inspires resistance.

I was struck this holiday season by how the boys and I clung to behaviors from years ago. There was our Christmas Eve fish dinner, midnight Mass, cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, and a trip to Westminster for Christmas dinner with relatives. A DVD of a favorite movie was unearthed and watched.

But the new developments — the boys’ departures to states far away — prompted my flood of resistance.

Now, as the storm waters recede from Boston’s streets, we can see that raging seas eventually calm and life returns to normal. But we are slightly more aware, a tad wiser in knowing that water, the sustenance of life, is also a change-maker that will potentially force us to rearrange our behaviors, rethink our coastal neighborhoods and waterways, and re-examine our insurance policies.

As with the changes brought on by a maturing family, a rising sea level requires adaptation and acceptance. There’s no denying the Atlantic Ocean is licking Boston’s doorways.

Perhaps the Jan. 4 snowstorm was a trial run for the ocean’s encroachment as we struggle to reconcile our love of water with its destructive power.