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along the margins

Updated: Mar 24

Up ahead on the high bluff, the first responders could see where the manor had violently collapsed into the surf. The receding storm surge finally allowed for a cautious approach to the wreckage to search for survivors. There were none.

Seventeen bodies were recovered. All members of Congress. Six senators and eleven representatives. An unannounced, never officially scheduled, gathering. Their congressional aides knew nothing about this meeting. Not even their spouses and families were aware. The shock was enormous.


Like the storm that had swept in quickly, violently, assuredly. A preemptive strike of nature. The only recognition a hurried 911 call as the great old house cracked and fell. A firm voice, later identified as Senator Umari’s, “Need immediate assistance at Harrowfield on east Reach Road. Situation is--”


Lost lives. Lost laws. The documents they were working on so secretively were partially recovered in the debris: comprehensive climate action legislation. Sweeping. Immediate. Ruthless. Their proposed legislation would have fundamentally tilted the balance of power. Upended the economy. Rattled the social order.

All with words. Only words.

On one of the pages of the draft legislation recovered, along the narrow margins, a line from Hillary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall had been scribbled: “When you are writing laws you are testing words to find their utmost power. Like spells, they have to make things happen in the real world, and like spells, they only work if people believe them.”

In the face of global catastrophe, it seems, all we had was words. Maybe the right ones could spellbind us. Could force lifesaving breath into our traumatized world, resuscitate hope, jumpstart action, and coax us back from the brink.

Now the coastal precipice upon which these seventeen members of Congress gathered to make a last stand had collapsed. Had all belief with it?

If it has, there are no words, no margin of error large enough, to shield us from the storms ahead.

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