Is Mother Nature angry?

by | May 28, 2024 | Seasons Newsletter | 6 comments



Samhain/Kiwi Halloween, has passed, and we are entering the season of reflection and rest.


I find myself shifting into a quieter mode, as I contemplate the slips I witnessed on another west coast beach. A beautiful valley, with a stream, nikau groves, and walking track has been smothered by debris from Cyclone Gabrielle.



Is Mother Nature angry?


Lately my thoughts have turned from musing about the seasons to musing about nature itself. It’s easy to personify nature as Mother Earth, the benign nurturer and protector. However, when nature delivers jolts and cataclysmic events, such as earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and tornados, what happens to that mothering image?

We can easily leap into another personification, of Mother Nature as angry and vengeful, punishing us for our mistreatment of Her.


A caution


It’s true that we are not treating this precious planet well and there are consequences to our actions. But we need to be careful of assigning to nature a human-like personality that acts vengefully, singling out particular places for punishment. This is what tribal cultures at the magical stage of development have always done.


Changes in the temperate zones


Nature has always been both creative and destructive, nurturing and savaging, gentle and brutal. In the temperate zones, nature has tended to be moderate rather than extreme. ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’, was perhaps the worst Shakespeare could conjure up in his sonnet; not ‘Fierce twisters do shred and raise and dump’ . . .

But now, with climate change and other factors making their impact felt, the temperate zones are certainly being exposed to more extreme weather.


Learning respect


Growing up in Taranaki, I learned that the mountain claimed many lives. My grandfather was the Inglewood constable and he was often called out on search and rescue expeditions. My father was a climber and knew the hazards well.

I was taught respect for the elements, which could change from blue skies to white-out blizzards in the matter of minutes. I was taught the dangers of descending down the slopes and taking a wrong path that ended on the edge of a high bluff.

But dealing with tsunami, earthquakes, methane-leaking coal faces, and cyclones was not part of my upbringing.

I remember the week later in my life when a typhoon passed close to where I lived in Auckland. Houses on one half of a road were devastated; on the other side left intact.

Nature does not discriminate. Nature is a force that we must live with, respect, and work with in ways that keep expanding, incorporating not only greater knowledge but also a larger perspective that goes beyond primitive responses and reactions.




Pearl Buck, who in 1938 won the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote The Big Wave for children from 8 to 12 years old. It’s about a tsunami in Japan. Buck, who lived in the East for most of her life, knew how devastating tsunami had become part of Japanese consciousness. In her book she incorporates the wisdom gleaned from the collective experience

The father tells his family:

‘No-one knows who makes evil storms . . . We only know that they come. When they come we must live through them as bravely as we can, and after they are gone, we must feel again how wonderful is life. Every day of life is more valuable now than it was before the storm.’


A Creative Response


At Piha on the west coast locals have responded creatively to the debris scattered across the sand by Cyclone Gabrielle. Small huts have appeared, and structures like totem poles. The human instinct to rebuild remains strong, along with the wisdom about when to evacuate.

How do you make meaning out of nature’s destructive forces?




  1. Debbie Tate

    I live in New Plymouth and at out local beach in Fitzroy there are many little huts along the beach being built with all the wood, the dogs love to explore these little huts ♥️

    • Juliet Batten

      How interesting Debbie, thank you. It must be a delight to see the huts.

  2. Janice

    What a beautiful piece of writing about ‘nature’s destructive force’. I especially like the building of huts and totem poles on the beaches that people have created. Using what nature has washed up on the beaches as a creative and positive sign, looking towards the future.

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Janice; I like the huts too and was so happy to see them. Public art, funded by nature!

  3. Karenza

    I felt very connected to your email, Juliet.

    Especially the comment about the human instinct to rebuild.

    May we all meet change with creativity and hope.

    With warmth Karenza

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Karenza, meeting change with creativity and hope: what a beautiful wish.


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