I started today’s column in a paper composition book that was probably made in the mid-1960s. My mother, an elementary school teacher and otherwise very ethical, brought leftover school supplies home at the end of each year. They, like me, are artifacts of a past that thought it might last forever.

This was another week of weather fluctuation. Warm sunshine turned to wild wind and became the remnant edges of Hurricane Nicole, cruising north after once again reminding Floridians that permanence is an illusion, especially when it comes to building construction.

Gardeners and farmers are concerned to see buds forming on plants that usually stand dormant this time of year, letting what energy they can collect settle in roots and soil. We wonder what the unusual weather means for the future of our livelihoods and planet.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my road trip in a rented RV, a journey I made to learn about co-housing and ecovillage living in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont. My choice of destination was not arbitrary. I was thinking about my own future.

The idea behind the itinerary was to explore options that would allow me independent living while I get to know the community where my eldest child lives, since we have agreed that I will be the one to relocate when my inevitably aging body and mind require more attention than I can provide without help.

Cohousing, according to the website at cohousing.org, “… is community designed to foster connection.” Most cohousing developments include common kitchen and dining spaces. There are often community gardens. By-laws and guidelines set the pattern for decision making that can be highly collaborative or, as I found in one case, somewhat dysfunctional.

It was between a visit to the second of four co-housing settlements and my overnight at an ecovillage, that I found a mantra for this phase of life.

It was a hot Friday in early October at the leading edge of the weather roller coaster this fall has been. I had spent my first night in a big-box parking lot and this day had so far given me two disappointing tours, during which I learned just how expensive it is to live in an overlarge dwelling with intention, and just how unwilling the owners of such condominiums are to consider creating more affordable options within their enclaves of green living.

A sign for a lakeside beach along my route enticed me to park the RV at Lake Wyola and take a cleansing dip and float weightless for a while. As I sat on a bench drying in the sun and watching the surface of the pond gently reflect a sky that was considering rain, it occurred to me that I had no idea what my life might become. Whether asking about the future of the world or the plan for my own existence, the answer remains the same: I don’t know.

This past Saturday, in a glimmering pause between more rainy days, I watched the warming air gather droplets from the grasses, returning their moisture to the atmosphere and building clouds that would deliver it again as downpour the following morning.

The days get shorter, and no matter how they fit into our 24-hour clocks, I cherish the time I can spend outside. I take off my shoes and walk barefoot across the Hayfields Preserve, grateful for this moment even in the sadness and confusion that such weather holds for me.

There are those who believe we can design our way out of the damage done by generations of over-consumption. Popular thinking has it that electricity is a clean source for the power we give to machines so they can do the things humans and other animals did before. This is the sort of short-sighted rationalization that brought us here. It is easy to ignore consequences when we don’t know what they will be.

Batteries, whether made from lithium or sand, are only as clean as the processes that build them, only as just as the price paid by those who live where their components have been harvested, as pure as the source that generates the electricity they store, and as pristine as the dumping site they end up in when their charging and storage days are over.

I struggle with my part in this. I drove to the Hayfields to walk in the wet grass. The words I wrote on 60-year-old paper and now transcribe on a keyboard will be typeset through a computer and printed on giant presses. It is possible that more of you reading this are doing so on a backlit screen than in the pages of the newspaper for which I write.

Lately, I find myself trying to accept the compromise that is modern human existence. Not believing any technological cavalry will ride to the defense of the planet we have spent centuries tearing apart, I still try to commit small acts of responsibility, but I know they are unlikely to bring back the world in which I grew up or the even more healthy one that preceded it. So, I accept the gift of a beautiful day, try to live comfortably in my guilt, and hope those unseasonable buds know more than I about how to heal the damage done by our thoughtless and impatient striving.

Maybe their evolution is already taking into account the changing climate. Maybe the best we can do is keep our fingers out of the gears and, rather than try to fix what we have broken, just do less harm.

Maybe we can embrace a new mantra. I don’t know.

Shlomit Auciello is an award-winning writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.