Rural Arkansas held many splendors. In the five years during which I called myself an Arkansan, her springs and the crevices deep within her hills intrigued me. But I had a city girl’s pallor and a driving need to return to the hustle and bustle of Kansas City. I shook the dust from my skirt as I fled with my child.
Until I first beheld the broad expanse of the Pacific where the mountain road crested at the Great Highway, I did not think I would ever find comfort in the sweet air of a country setting. Yet here I dwell; where the river sits just below the road to home, and the birds sing me awake long before the persistent chirp of my alarm breaks the silence of my tiny home.
The current shelter-in-place orders have given me time to walk in the park where my house sits; to stop along the roadway on my morning commute; and to contemplate the world as I have not felt compelled to do in a very long while. You do not have to convince me that climate change threatens this planet. I read the science; I find the potential that we will kill this place genuine and sobering.
This morning I paused to study two birds high above me on wires extending across the fields of Andrus Island. I often see these majestic creatures poised next to the high voltage warning signs. I yearn to understand why they choose the milled timber over the wild branch. I wonder if they perceive the difference, as they clutch the square lines of the utility pole. They seem to hold the human trappings in low regard.
All across the nation, people post articles and photos showing animals reclaiming paved streets and city skylines shaking off their customary fog. My sister St. Louisan would spare a small smile, silent and sorrowful. Spring herself, she would say, when she woke at dawn, would scarcely know that we were gone.
And so I cry to my mother Earth, I beseech her. Give me your soft arms, a blanket of your tender blades, that I may find my comfort here. I raise my face to the spatter of a light rain as evening falls. Do not forsake me, I implore. I need your refuge.
Today marked the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. I attended no celebrations; I posted no pictures; I exhorted no one to join any effort to reverse the human impact on this beloved planet. In fact, my single acknowledgement of my regard for this place consisted of parking alongside the San Joaquin, at eight o’clock, straining to capture the image of a shivering bird peering at me from behind a metal coil. I almost felt a little shabby.
My one excuse for inactivity consists of my age — my general fatigue for causes and activism. I have marched; I have proclaimed; I have written countless letters to the editor — for the environment, and the safety of my sisters, and the rights of my neighbors. I have grown weary.
But my child: I’ve given my child to the future. I did not even need to pass my torch with its dying ember. He lit his own ablaze, in the name of his future and the future of his generation. He fights for the homeless and for justice and for equality. He stands with others. He supports those who protest the ruination of our water and our resources. The collected efforts of my son and his contemporaries might save us on all fronts. They give me hope; and on the wings of that hope, I send my love and humble gratitude to my mother Earth.
I only hope it is not too little, too late.