I sleep on the beach most nights but when it's rainy I peg my tent in buildings whose walls were bashed in last summer by Hurricane Dean. When I'm hunkering in these dream homes sometimes I imagine the owner on stormy days or maybe even during lesser hurricanes before Dean, sitting calmly in his overstuffed chair smoking cigars, sipping whiskey, grinning to himself in cozy security as wave froth plasters his big picture window facing the sea -- grinning at how the palms bend to the sand while in his sanctuary all is peaceful, all under control.

But, no one built anything along this beach with Texas-sized Hurricane Dean in mind -- nothing to withstand wind gusts of 200 mph (320 km/h) and the enormous waves that came with them. You should see the slabs of concrete strewn like big eggshell flakes. Seeing the destruction, you're put in mind of how vulnerable we humans really are, and how silly we are when we begin feeling invincible, secure at last.

In fact, when you walk the beach a lot, you find that almost any little event leads to a long train of thought following that same general line.

For instance, the other night I'd pegged my tent on the beach and the next morning found myself missing a tent peg. Thing is, I know how easy it is to lose tent pegs in sand and I really dislike losing them, so here I've been counting my pegs when I put them into my bag, counting them when I take them out, and I pay strict attention to each spot where I peg them. It's basically impossible to lose a peg with such a conscientious monitoring system, but... I've lost TWO pegs this week...

Beach walking, brooding over lost tent pegs, my thoughts eventually lead to the claims of nuclear power engineers that -- although already very serious accidents have happened -- it's impossible for nuclear accidents to occur in their power plants. Well, nuclear power stations are more complex than tent pegs and sand, and I doubt that nuclear engineers can have any more confidence in their monitoring systems than I had in mine. But, when I'm wrong, I lose tent pegs; when they're wrong, the planetary biosphere is poisoned for thousands of years with DNA-shattering low-level radiation.

I wish that each person who ever finds himself or herself in the position of being able to gamble with Life on Earth, or with the welfare of their nation, tribe or family, could spend a few days and nights here on the beach with me, meditating the way I have on the meanings of collapsed dream-homes and lost tent pegs.