I had to look twice to make sure; OK, three times. It was
snowing. The wind had been blowing since yesterday when it was 18 degrees
Celsius in late afternoon. All degrees but four got scattered by bedtime. We
lost two more overnight.
Today at noon we got snowflakes. A first this time of the
year by everyone’s account. Dog and I took a walk in that swirling mad
snowflake dance and I realized this sad fact: first snow always had my heart
flutter with joy. Always. Today, this year, the flutter is missing and instead
I feel sad and worried. The world is changing and I do not care about making
yet another point about climate change (yes, it is real, and yes, I am shaking
my head knowing it is still debated; seriously!). But.
Last year in May the boys and I hiked to Gibraltar rock near Paul Lake. It was sunny, we hoped to see chipmunks and we also love the view from up there, all perfect reasons to venture up the trail. What we did not know was that on the way up we would spot some fairy slipper orchids.
I am far from being a wildflower expert but I succumb in fascination to any wildflower I encounter. Every one of them is a reminder of the magic that unfolds constantly around us and we are rushed enough to ignore. Kamloops has a richness of gentle beauty, I came to learn as we hiked on many hills in spring and early summer. From yellow spring bells to buttercups, to the bright yellow symphony of arrow-leaf balsamroot flowers covering an entire area, and the gracious mariposa lily, it’s a carousel of wonder that will never stop, unless…
I guided the boys to kneeling gently close enough so they can see their absolute grace but careful enough to not harm them in any way. They did so, but giggled also, pleasured to see my penchant for wildflowers, again, knowing they will likely see them framed as photos in our home.
Another time while hiking in Valleyview, we came across yellow cactus flowers. It was a first that left us breathless. It was a most serene yellow and a most delicate collection of petals, surrounded by the sharp prickles of the cactus plant.
I went back a few days later to see them again. And then again, until they withered and became dust. I took photos of the flowers and the green bees collecting the pollen. Yes, green and shiny, as if the bees I’d known forever just decided to get new armour. Quite the scene.
The landscape from there was beautiful. The Thompson was winding its way through the wind-carved hills on both sides and distant mountains in shades of blue and green stole my gaze. The cloud-stitched sky was the kind of intense blue you feel happy for no reason just by looking at it. No reason to hurry, not even one… And nothing taken for granted, not even one thing.
I often get reminded of my first impressions of Kamloops and the areas that surround it. It was hot and dusty that day and I missed the green lush Coast even before getting out of the car. But I was also of the opinion that every place has its secret beauty, if only we are patient enough to see it, curious to follow new paths and keep our eyes open to both large and tiny worlds that we come across.
Since moving to Kamloops we have been discovering places and their treasures, and countless times I have been reminded of how no place is ever devoid of nature magic.
I was recently humbled while hiking on the rather stark looking hills guarding the lake near Savona. Nothing was stirring and it seemed that every living thing had fled long before we got there. A few gnarly looking trees and the clumps of tired cacti made me think of old cowboy movies where bones littered the ground, which was, of course, cracked and dry. Yet a sweetly sounding bird song shattered that deadly silence and filled the space with life.
Then, out of nowhere, four mountain goats appeared on the cliff above us. They stopped, studied us with as much interest as we studied them, and continued their trek over cliffs, gazing back at times. Magic was there, I was all too blinded by expectations to see it. Tiny purple flowers lined the path every now and then and, as we made our way back, the sky was alight with orange glowing clouds. A symphony of some sort, just in a different tone.
And yet, all is not ideal not when we set out on our adventures. On some portions of the River Trail we notice bags of dog poo left behind, and they are more than just eyesores. they spell the kind of ‘I do not care right now’ that has no place in the world that shelters beautiful blue skies, gracious flowers, and countless wonders that are so selflessly shared with us humans.
As we walk along the river or on the shores of Kamloops Lake, we see various garbage bits, from cans and bottles to plastic bags and other plastic debris, new and old, equally sad and depressing. We collect as much as we can and repeat as necessary. An endless pit of despair really, yet coupled with an ever growing love for the world that so patiently allows us to be.
More so, since my sons have been born, I have been discovering the world through their eyes, skipping a few steps ahead trying to imagine what the world will be like when they grow up, striving to keep it as beautiful as we have it now, as worry-free as I once believed it to be when I was first opening my eyes to it, and for all of that, no effort is too small or insignificant.
On any given day, whether I peek at the dance of the magpies in the front yard, or kneeling to observe the almost surreal beauty of a flower ever so gentle yet sturdy enough to withstand the wildest weather elements, or paddling on lakes and windy canals that feed them, I am constantly reminded of the reasons for writing about topics many consider uncomfortable or less pleasant, and for making certain life choices that allow me to look in my sons’ eyes and say ‘I did what I could, to the best of my knowledge’, and also to immerse myself in the most beautiful and wildest of places knowing that I see their worthiness but I am also responsible to preserve it.
The world… It is never ours to trample over, but live in gently and pass it on, because truth is, we are alive and well only as long as our world is. And that is reason enough to do what I do, and reason enough to try to convince others to do the same.
It was after bedtime that Sasha and I sat down to read about ocean life, which is, according to his own classification, ‘his main focus.’ Bedtime strictness be gone, motherhood pays sweet dues to such clear and worthwhile endeavours. So we sat to read.
‘Mom, I will always remember you.’
What would you have said to that? Composure is not an attribute I possess. For a writer with no serious case of writer’s block I should have no excuse. Yet I said nothing but smiled. So will I. Both of you. The gift of open heart when you least expect it. Thoughts of years to come.
Then the thought struck like a most inelegant electric eel. Everything is becoming short-term nowadays. From cell phone contracts to how we think of our impact on the world around, we look at today, this month, this year, if that far. We’re getting used to thinking short-term, we’re being trained to do so.
The attention span of children is reduced by a few seconds with each generation (and what a big virtual chunk of brain power that is) and the objects and contracts we’re told we need to sign up for are measured not in their true value, but in what we have to pay every month and or in how we can make best use of them today.
We’re surrounding ourselves with trees (some of which fake and taking the place of real ones) and we fail to see the forest.
Many think they want to live forever but life is knitted with the thin fabric of something that’s meant to last today and tomorrow.
We think in return policies, exchange for new if something breaks, throw-away and replace with new model; we pay an acceptable-to-budget amount every month without looking at the big picture.
We buy toys for our children’s entertainment today without thinking about the impact of all the broken, thrown-away toys over the years. We feed them refined food they like today, questionable treats that make them grin today, without assessing the impact of the short-term joys on their health, on their world, on ours.
To say that long-term awareness has been short-circuited in favour of the short-term one might sound harsh and I am, yet again, the Grinch that steals today’s fun. But perhaps a refreshed view of the Grinch might save the original, and it may as well save me right now. Dr. Seuss’s wicked thoughtfulness sparkles through. The end of fun was in fact the beginning of real joy. Stripped of all that was short-term glitter, joy stayed put and it came from inside. An act of giving if you will.
Today’s short-term jolly adventures are dangerously plopping themselves in front of long-term thinking, shadowing judgment and making us sign up contracts with words too small and too many to read in one go. Someone must be watching over us rushed people, we assume. Life is happening fast, we are happening with it and the gulps of short-term jolliness make the ride more fun. So be it, where do I sign?
But is the ride more fun? Not quite.
It is refreshing to think that there is still time to think long-term. A rather un-capitalistic view of life, a return to ‘cradle to grave’ objects and concepts alike, perhaps revising investments to make them apply to human richness, in spirit and open-heart goodness rather than have them confined to the financial realm. No one gains money when people’s hearts and minds grow richer but that is the kind of richness that lasts, the one you don’t find in a bank account.
It is fitting of us to consider that while today only comes once and now is a chance we’ll never have again, the long-term concept is building itself out of every today we churn in our rushed existence. The one big problem is that we will not live forever and the generations to come will have a today made from that patched-up, somewhat crumbly long-term we’re building handicapped by our short-term blindness.
Whether Sasha becomes a marine biologist or not (his second choice is to become a carpenter, inspired by a kind, generous toy maker he’s met not long ago) it is not important. My peace of mind comes from knowing that we sat down long enough to read all that he wanted to (hopefully,) we saw enough ocean to understand its boundless wonder (hopefully) and we had enough challenging topics at the dinner table for both of them to understand that us humans honour ourselves and the gift of life by understanding roots and future (we have.) The roots are being handed to us and the future we create. A heck of a long-term responsibility if you ask me.
I never felt like crying during a documentary. It’s called Chasing Ice and James Balog is the brain behind it, helped by a team of dedicated people. It’s hard to remember to breathe at times. There’s a particular scene during Chasing Ice that made my eyes tear up. A big chunk of ice the breaks and falls into the ocean, rolling like a dying polar bear and growling just the same.
It’s what my boys and your children will inherit. A big meltdown that we sugarcoat nowadays with feeble attempts like “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad…” or “You can’t believe everything those scientists say…” Well, it’s not what anyone says, it’s reality. A big sloshy reality that will not get better unless we change something.
It is not about any degrees of badness, it’s about facts. That is what the documentary is about. Time-lapse photography of melting glaciers. Glaciers that have stayed put for thousands of years doing their thawing/building up dance year after year, we are now seeing disappear. We make them disappear to be more precise.
James Balog’s work is inspirational. It actually goes well beyond that. It redefines the concept of legacy. He does work that sends a message. And since photography is all he has, that’s what he’s showing.
The question is: Will we pay attention? Will we move beyond the awe created by the ice images he presents? Photographs and videos obtained with a lot of work and determination, and meant to make us change our ways.
Will we? Once again, I have to ask the question I keep asking: Will we be able to look into our children’s eyes and say “I did all that I could to make this planet last for you and those to come after you…” Or will we look down in shame because of all that we didn’t do.
I keep telling myself that small changes will ultimately create a major shift but I am worried that we’re past the time when small changes could make it happen. But what if we’re not?
What are you willing to change to ensure a more lasting future for today’s children? If small changes like buying based on need rather than want, turning off lights when not in use, giving up on the useless lawn and growing an edible garden, recycling and reusing as much as you can, if that is all we can do, I’d say that’s a great start. Because once you start doing that it means that your thinking has shifted. There is so much we can still do; hope is no longer the equivalent of a sigh while scanning the horizon, hope means action.
Start by watching the documentary. If you’re not worried and/or inspired at the moment, Chasing Ice might do that for you. Your children and their children to follow will thank you.
The journey of raising boys has been one of joy, wonder, humbleness and ever-growing curiosity for what comes next. Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed Amy Herbst's book 'Boys will be boys.' Click here to view more details It's got what boys' parents need.