These last few days after Christmas, I have been staying in my pajamas, reading, cooking big meals I don't usually have time for, and listening to my daughter and son giggle, squeal, and laugh from various rooms in the house. They are old enough now that I don't need to check on them. Occasionally they start bickering so I command them to play separately.
Soon I hear the squealing and laughing again. I love this age.
They're also at the age (almost 8 and newly 11) when they take in more of the swirl of messages around them--from the news, friends, adults who think they aren't listening or won't understand. My son is reading YA (carefully monitored).
By our own preference we don't watch news or TV at all, just movies. But because my husband and I are environmentalists and our writing, teaching, and research are in this area, our kids see magazines and Facebook posts mentioning all the crises that need our immediate response. I don't know about you, but the sex talk is not what strikes terror into my heart. It's the climate change talk.
And like the sex, our approach to climate change is linked to faith and wonder and love. Like sex, our approach to climate change balances on what type of relationship we have with the more-than-human world.
This Christmas was warm, really warm, and reminded me of one when my son was an only child and I wrote a poem that recently appeared in Paterson Literary Review Issue 42 (see below). This Christmas we played outside with Nerf guns instead of sleds, threw the frisbee for the dog, and went hiking with friends. Who knows how many white Christmases the future holds for Northern Pennsylvania--more or less. Regardless, nature is a magical world that I want my children to know and love.
For their sakes, I will do all I can so wonder will provide a counterbalance to the worry that will ultimately be part of their relationship with the earth.
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
—from “Monday” by Billy Collins
The day after Christmas, 2006, and nowhere
in the lower forty-eight is below thirty degrees Fahrenheit
except, my husband reports, a spot in Maine.
I can be upbeat. Children in northern climes
with new bikes are out riding them,
spinning circles in circles.
But how can I ignore those tykes
who stand on porches holding sleds,
their hats in their hands.
Really, it is not today that worries me,
an unremarkable gray without threat or promise,
same birds at the feeder.
Neither does tomorrow (a word my son
only knows means “not now”)
but some vague future.
How will any child believe in a jolly giver-of-gifts
wearing a fur coat by a fire at the icy top of the world
once the glaciers are puddles in our textbooks?
Regardless, the poets will be at their windows
finding new images—maybe something a pretty
shade of green to compare the sky to,
pretty if we can just divorce memory from emotion
and approach the new dawn, whatever its color,
with the heart of a child on Christmas Eve
who, looking back, knows he could have let go
of the cat’s tail sooner, feels bad that she
busted her brother’s favorite train,
yet hopes a larger forgiveness presides. Yes,
we poets will always be at our windows, except
when at our children’s bedsides singing, shushing, singing.
I write, read, recreate, and raise kids in rural Pennsylvania. I teach part-time in Outdoor Recreation Leadership, Creative Writing, and Women's Studies at Mansfield University.