On Parenthood, Nature, Climate Change and Hope: A Love Story

We’ve raised three children, almost all out of their teens now. Cultivated some wisdom, yet it is partnered with humbleness – really, I know nothing. Just ask my teenager. But I’ve reveled in the watching: observing growth and change and repetition of patterns even as each child grew their own way.

The observation moments are my favourite, when I could take a step back from tiredness, my own ego and judgments of good vs. bad – and instead just watch life unfolding. So much joy there, balancing out the sheer overwhelm of being responsible for 3 busy lives (not counting my own, which at that time really wasn’t just my own, anyway).

Moments like hearing a child wake up singing. Even if the song was Frosty the Snowman again and it was now July.

Witnessing the feelings pour out of a little one holding their brand new baby sibling.

Feeling a trusting little hand reach up to take mine. Ah, that’s one of the best.

Extra joy when they chose their own ways to be instead of trying to fuse with the masses: a penchant for wildly mismatched outfits from the sheer joy of colour; a frog-on-the-nose swamp creature Halloween costume when the class standard was a Disney-esque princess; putting up signs asking classmates to not kill insects (which unfortunately seemed to encourage the opposite behaviour… life lesson).

They continued to grow and began grappling with new concepts like life/death/sex and where they could interface with the world around them. There were some rough patches, but even those I’m thankful for because what was important became crystal clear.

I guess I’m just feeling filled up with all those experiences, and wondering, as my children start to move away from me, what will fill me up from here on out?

Finding that the land, nature, is rising up to fill that place. Watching the patterns of the seasons, the birds and plants as they grow and change and move through life around me. The crows are noisy right now, after being so silent and secretive while raising their babies. (Sneaking suspicion that the noisy ones are the newly independent teenagers testing out their voices. Hmm, funny to see that pattern repeating. I can commiserate with the parent crows.)

Maybe that’s why I feel so broken watching the fallout from our unprecedented heatwave, and the fires. Not to even begin with what is happening elsewhere in the world.

In my home town, an urban environment known for its cool climate and rainy skies, human lives were LOST, alongside countless plants and animals, due to our inability to manage the consequences of that heat. We aren’t built for heat like that around here. Blocks of young boulevard trees in my neighbourhood have withered and lost their leaves. Local raspberry crops cooked to jam on the bush. That just a few days of extra heat too early in the season could do this, and here?!!!!!? Words fail me.

My innocence, what was left of it, has been burned away. My complacency has melted. My own leaves have been scorched, my roots weakened in the dryness.

I’m left with feelings of dread, of inability to do anything that will make a difference. But those feelings won’t stop me. Life goes on, just like it did when my first child moved away for school in a different city. (I did cry rather embarrassingly in public once, in the grocery store, when I realized I no longer had to shop for the family vegetarian. But then I blew my nose, pulled up my socks and moved forward into an uncertain new world).

To sit wallowing in the sad feelings or paralyzed by anxiety-provoking headlines won’t help me or anyone else. I want to see and promote taking resilient steps forward. I want to learn how to be a better guardian of the land.

Like a new parent, my ears are perked up; my radar is seeking concrete advice. What does the land need that I can give?

The answer, for nature, as for my children, is suddenly obvious – love.

How to show that love will be the evolving question, just as it has been in parenthood. And that gives me hope and a job to do.