Under the Branches

Happy Arbor Day!! Today was Arbor Day (April 28), a day set aside to celebrate trees and all of the incredible things they do for us. In honor of Arbor Day and trees, I bring you: A POEM! I hope this inspires you to think about trees and all they do for us. Enjoy!

 

Under the branches of a tree
Just planted, in the spring
I stand, gazing proudly at the roots I have just put down
Leaning on the handle of my shovel in the sun
Hands stained with dirt, heart stained with pride

Under the branches of that tree
I run, in the summertime
Grateful for it’s shade- the branches stretching across my path
My feet pounding the earth, my body given brief respite

Under the branches of a tree
I meet my love
An evening stolen from our frenetic lives
From the hawkish gaze of our parents
to the hawkish gaze of the birds
watching, giving their “hoot hoot” blessing.

 

Under the branches of a tree,
my love gets on one knee
His eyes filled with love, with trust and hope, a promise of what’s to be
I smile and nod, and heart blossoms with joy
Under the blossoms of another spring, we seal the promise with a kiss.

Under the branches of a tree
We come here with our child
who learns to love ladybugs and learns to read
beneath the branches, now wiser with age.

We take her graduation pictures there
the branches filter the light
And grandchildren are warned gently not to trample
the roots with bikes and trikes.

The years pass by, the tree it grows, and our family does too.
Season after season, joy and pain
and all that life can brew
With love and joy and care and peace, this tree, she sees it all
In winter’s cold, spring’s rebirth, the joy of summer and colors of fall

Under the branches of the tree
My love and I walk, stooped
with age, but tall in heart and soul, as we slow now, in old age

We walk a path and turn a road, together close our eyes
And move along into darkening night
Together, closer our eyes.

Under the branches of a tree
We rest now, hand in hand
Our souls they roam, explore, and dance
Under the branches of a tree.  

Time

As I strolled in to work today, I was reminded of how valuable time is. The beautiful, vibrant pink petals of the magnolia tree on my walk from the parking lot now lie on the ground scattered like ashes in the grass. Just last Friday, they stood like proud trumpets blasting their glory against the spring sky in full color. The daffodils that line the drive from the gatehouse now shrivel, shying away from the sun, dull and crunchy looking.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty in bloom to see, and there is still a vibrant rainbow of color quilting the landscape. However, for some flowers, the time to bloom is gone.

Time is the one thing that all humans have the same amount of, in the same precious limited supply. When I was child, I used to complain to my dad sometimes that I didn’t have enough time to get things done. I really think he relished being able to use his carefully rehearsed reply, “Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. What matters is how you use them.” In retrospect, of course, he was right.

As a kid, I don’t know if I fully realized the value of time. Maybe it was because as a kid, I didn’t fully realize how limited it was, and how much I had the potential to accomplish with my time. Now, as an adult with many things that I am passionate about, and many things that I am determined to accomplish in my lifetime, I  feel the breath of Father Time breathing down my neck.

Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time, and never will be. Then, I remember the importance of time management. Sometimes I manage my time by double tasking, even though on principle I am not a fan of it. Double tasking is really just a way of doing two things half as well as you can, but in a pinch, it does work. Sometimes I will watch TV with my mom while writing, as a way to enjoy her company and also build our relationship, while making sure that I get words to paper at some point during the day. I always go back and edit to make sure things look good!

I also try to avoid periods of time where I am not working towards my goals in some way, shape or form. Now, occasionally that makes me a neurotic nutcase, which is why I try to build some time into every day that fuels my spirit or gives me some kind of rest or recharge.

Time is so precious on an individual level, which is why if you are as crazy goal oriented as I am, I highly recommend keeping an eye on how you manage your time.

The greatest gift you can give to a person or a cause is your time ,because it is so finite. I also recommend paying attention to what you are giving your time to, and who. Are you giving your time to people who will give it back, or are you throwing time after people who don’t text you back and don’t make room for you in their schedules or their lives? Don’t make a priority out of people who won’t even make you a backup plan. You deserve better than that.

There are several ways to use your time. You can waste time, you can spend time, or you can invest time. I waste time sometimes by looking at Facebook. I’m human, I will admit it. The dark hole of the internet still ensnares me with it’s siren call. I spend time driving to work and cooking, cleaning, and buying groceries- things I can’t really avoid that are necessary to living an effective, healthy life. I try to invest time wherever I can. I invest time in my relationships- with people who care for me, who I care for, and who I am fairly confident will stick around. I invest time writing in my blog—it is my sincere hope that this becomes something valueable both to you , the reader, and me, the writer. I also hope that it becomes valueable and makes a positive impact in the environmental movement.

Our environment, no, our world, has limited time. The honest truth is, even if we were to stop emitting Carbon Dioxide this second, (which we won’t) we would still continue to have a climate that is changing due to human activity for years to come. That’s because takes time for carbon to cycle through the atmosphere and for the carbon that we put out yesterday to get absorbed and for our planet to deal with it.

Think of the brakes on a car. If you brake, your car will still continue to move forward due to the momentum you’ve built up. It’s like that.

That doesn’t mean it’s all gloom and doom. (see my last post about faith) it means that now is the moment in history when we need to spend and invest our time in ensuring a greener, cleaner, brighter, healthier, better future for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.

There is no time to waste.

Faith

It is beyond important, and beyond difficult, to have a little faith. Faith Is what keeps us going when we cannot see our results, the fruit of our hard work just yet. It is the belief that we will one day reap what we sow.

Faith is defined by the random online dictionary I used (at least I’m honest about my sources) as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. Now, don’t know if I would go so far as to say complete trust, which may indicate some of the struggles I have with faith. Faith, to me, is belief or trust in something that we do not have concrete, physical proof for.

I used to struggle with faith in people and faith in karma. I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around the thought that people wouldn’t somehow let me down or fail to measure up to my standards. As a result, I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility, work, and, in the end, loneliness, that I could have avoided if I just had a little bit of faith.

I’m fairly certain this came from my need to feel like I could somehow control the outcome of my efforts in every aspect of life- school, family, relationships, and activism. But the righter I held to control, the more I felt out of control, and the more I felt tired, exhausted, and burnt-out.

The truth is, we have very little control. It took me a long time to accept that, and now I fully believe it. No matter how much work I put into this blog, I can only control the quality of my content and the strategy I use to promote it. I can’t control whether or not people will read it. I can’t control whether people will take action or become a part of the environmental movement. However, I can have faith.

I can have faith in the goodness of people, that they won’t shut out my words and my messages completely. I can have faith that we are on the cusp of a worldwide revolution toward a better tomorrow. I can have faith in my friends, colleagues, and fellow environmentalists that they will keep fighting the good fight. I do have faith. I do not have blind faith- to have blind faith would be to live without a healthy dose of realism, and without a work ethic and an ability to distinguish between what we can control, and the situations where we must have a little faith.

This is actually a lot scarier than fighting for control with every breath. It’s not any easier emotionally, but it’s a whole lot less work. So, today, I have faith. I have faith in you, I have faith in humanity, and I have faith that all the chaos that exists in our world, will turn out alright in the end. Better than alright, even.

 

 

The Fight for the Earth

When I walked into Mixed Martial Arts classes for the first time back in 2014, I was scared. I wanted to run, to hide, to turn around and run back to the car as fast as I could, which, at the time wasn’t fast because I was so out of shape.

I was at a low point in my life. I had lost my will to fight, my will to care, and my will to do anything other than show up for the bare minimum of my responsibilities. I was miserable. I had somehow talked someone into bringing me along to their MMA class, in hopes that maybe this would somehow be the key to getting me back into shape.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, maybe some glimmer of hope in me had also talked me into going. Maybe there was more going on in my subconscious than I thought.

All I know is that on a warm late summer evening, we pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall and my feet dragged across the pavement slower than usual. The door creaked swung open as I squeezed my way through the narrow entranceway behind someone else, hoping I could hide.

That night, on those dingy blue, faded wrestling mats, with borrowed boxing gloves a size too big, and an instructor teaching faster than I had a chance to catch up with, I was physically miserable. I was sweaty after five minutes, and I could barely make it through the warm-up. I wanted to hide, I was so embarrassed.

However, I felt alive. Something about the smack of those cheap borrowed gloves against the practice pads held up by a partner who encouraged me, despite having never met me before (they made me split up from my friend), something about the cramp in my side, something about pushing through the misery and somehow completing the class—not only was physically demanding, but with each smack of the glove against the pad, with each lap around the gym, with each inch I pushed myself, I felt the walls of the sorrow I had built around myself for over a year begin to crack, and I could feel anger rushing through like a flood against a dam. The levees were breaking, and I realized something that I have never forgotten, and never will forget, whether I am actively training MMA or not:

I am a fighter.

Since  that day I have sorted through a lot of emotions and I am no longer an unrecognizable mess of anger, depression, sorrow, and despair. I consider myself a fairly well-adjusted, fulfilled, and responsible young woman with meaningful relationships and more passions than I know what to do with.

Yet I have carried that spirit of fight with me throughout the time since that first day of MMA. I keep it central, when I face trouble. My fight is tempered with a bit more wisdom, but it remains there.

Perhaps that’s why I choose to fight for the environment. I love nature. I cannot imagine life without it. I cannot imagine a world without livable green spaces, without a wealth of wildlife, and without the abundance that we are blessed to have living on this spinning ball of rock hurtling through space. So, I fight for it. I’ve arrived at the point where I realize it’s actually not a choice, it’s who I am. Why deny who I am, and create misery for myself? I’ve been there and done that!

Without a reason to fight, (or, if the word fight is too strong for you, then use the term advocate, or say, “without a recognition of our purpose”  we become complacent, we become lost, we become shadows of who we once were.

Humanity was not meant to sit on its thumbs and accept injustice. Look at our history books—the civil rights movement. The civil war. World War II. World War I. The revolutionary war. The feminist movement. The gay rights movement. Now, the environmental movement and many, many more. We must fight, and we must never accept injustice.

Though beads of sweat dot our brow, thought we breathe hard in fear and anxiety—for the opposition is strong and refuses to play fair—though our backs strain with the heavy burden of oppression—we must soldier on for what we know in our souls to be true, right, and just.

For me, that is the preservation and conservation of our home, the beautiful planet earth.

This earth day, I stand in solidarity for those who march for science—though I cannot be there due to the death of a family friend, I am there in spirit. We are the foot soldiers of mother earth, and we will not let her lie in squalor while the demons of industry and capitalism and right wing pundits ignore her screams for help.  Will you fight however you can, wherever you are, in whatever way is available to you?

Do not let your fire be silenced. I believe that you are a fighter, too.

Springing into Rebirth

 

I sat for a few minutes when writing this, struggling a little to decide what topic I should choose tonight. I had a few that I thought might be a hit and bring in a lot of people to read. I had a few ideas that I thought would be a total dud but which would fuel my inner activist fire. However, none of them spoke to my heart in the way that the topic I will focus on did, and I think that’s where my best writing comes. Really, that’s where anyone’s best art comes from—those moments where our soul is truly unleashed through our work and we are able to entrance our audience in our vision.

It’s springtime. It’s incredible, isn’t it? You step outside in the morning and you can feel hints of dew on the grass. You wake up to the sun, streaming in through the panes of glass on your window and greeting the backs of your eyelids like the kiss of a lover, returning after a long absence. “I’m sorry I was gone so long.” It whispers. “I promise I’ll never leave again” it lies.

Because spring is also a tease. Spring comes with days so dark and wet and rainy that you just want to curl up under a blanket and curl up to your real loved ones- the flesh and blood ones that gave you warmth and light and life throughout the winter. Who needs that darn sun anyway?

I’m an addict for sunshine, and I joyfully rant about its presence to anyone who will listen.

Springtime also brings new life- new buds dot the ground in the gardens of The Morton Arboretum like the polka dots on my spring Easter dress. It’s the season of blooms, bursting out in reckless color against the bluest, most azure backdrop you ever dreamed. They’re firecrackers of orange, blushes of pink, the whitest, purest whites. They are foreshadows of fireworks shows, blushing babies conceived in winter’s dark, and summer brides dressed in white.

Trees begin to bud and promise us leaves. The summer will be cloaked in green once again this year, creating an emerald backdrop for our brightest summer dreaming. Despite the concerns of the winter and early spring weather events caused- strange warm days followed by sudden freezes. The world will begin again.

I am hopeful that we can begin again, and in earnest. I hope that the environmental movement can seize the joy of spring and come out of the winter woodwork. I hate to mention the current political climate, but it must be mentioned, or I would be guilty of the sin of omission. The controversy sparked by the Trump administration has sparked a powder keg, and the fire is beginning to die down. We now have the March for Science and the Climate March on the horizon , and it is my earnest hope that the flames unleashed at those events can be stoked into a steady fire which can sustain real action, real activism. Not the sexy, sign-waving, marching in the streets kind- the late nights, hard work, and grassroots organization necessary to breath live and momentum into a movement.

I love spring. It reminds me to renew myself, to refocus on my goals, my purpose, and it gets me outside- where I am most content and full of joy.

If you do nothing else today, drop whatever device you are reading this on and go outside. Breath in the air. Even if it’s not sunny. Fill your lungs and smell the rebirth, the renewal, and allow yourself to be renewed to. Whatever your purpose, whatever your cause, take stock and revisit how you can take action in a sustainable, responsible, and meaningful way.

Spring has sprung, and now is the time for all of us to do the same

Opportunity

“Don’t wait for opportunity to knock. If you even hear his footsteps, you throw open that door, you hunt him down and you tackle that mother***er in the street!”

I really wish I could find where this quote should be attributed because it’s that good. I scoured my brain and the internet but couldn’t seem to find it. However, wherever I heard it, it has stuck with me for many years.

Many people think that opportunity s something that only comes to a select few. Something that is created by luck and circumstance, and I suppose that to a certain extent, that is true. There are people who just plain get lucky, and by some stroke of luck they are in the right place at the right time. This is great for them. I am so happy that they have the good fortune to achieve their goals, dreams, and wishes through such amazing good fortune.

The truth is, in my experience, that this is usually not the case. Magic, the magic of success, the magic of joy, the magic of dreams coming true, can only come when preparation meets opportunity. It’s a formula that simple.

Let me explain in a bit more depth. Let’s take the example of a writer, like myself. The writer blogs frequently. She keeps poems on file that she’s never used but hopes that one day will see the light of day. She researches how to make her blog successful, relentlessly posts on Facebook and Instagram in hopes of gaining more followers and getting her messages out. She constantly stays involved in her community and in the environmental movement, hoping to make a difference and also collecting stories to share with the world.

Now, think of another writer, or someone who aspires to be a writer. They don’t write, but maybe every now and then they read a new novel by writers they want to emulate. They circle writers workshops on their community calendar and one day dream of mustering the courage to get to one and share a poem or two. They may be extremely talented, perhaps even more so than the first writer- they just aren’t prepared.

Now, imagine both of those writers get an opportunity to submit to a very reputable publication. The prepared writer delves into their archives for an appropriate piece, edits the heck out of it, sends it to their mentors and asks for feedback, and submits. The second writer sits in front of their computer screen for hours, trying to get inspiration to come, but it’s been so long since they’ve even written, that they can barely get words on the page.

This is not to say there will be some who are unprepared and somehow pull out the passion and talent needed to get that once in a lifetime chance. However, more often than not, it is the individual who is prepared, who constantly seeks out opportunities and MAKES THEIR OWN opportunities, that will succeed.

I strive to live by this principle, and of course, as always, I admit that I am human and am not always successful. This is one of the reasons why I blog, because I am creating my own opportunity to share stories with all of my beautiful friends, family, and readers. This is my way of creating an opportunity to share the story of our beautiful planet and why it needs champions (other than just myself).

Whatever it is you dream of, I encourage you to start now in making your own opportunities. Figure out what your dream looks like, and when that sexy thang walks down the road, be so prepared that you can smell him a mile away, and run. Run toward it, and don’t look back. It’s that simple of an equation, and that hard of a task. To be constantly prepared is exhausting, but not as exhausting, in my opinion, as a life spent awake at night dreaming of what could have been.

The Meeting

There was a part of me that didn’t want to go. Actually, there was a large part of me that didn’t want to go. Part of me wanted to finish up at the gym, go home and eat tacos (it was taco Tuesday, after all), and read a book curled up with a scented candle.

But I had promised my mom that I would go, and I was curious. So, I pulled up to the elementary school down the road from our neighborhood and parked my little Prius in the parking lot and made my way into a building with the lowest ceilings I’d seen since fifth grade.

The Warrenville Lakes Homeowners Association, it seemed, was made up of mostly middle aged to senior folks. This was the annual meeting of the neighborhood governing body for the small assortment of townhomes in which my mom and I live. I knew that we lived in a small little town with a lot of older folks, but I had no idea that I would likely be the only person there under the age of thirty. (Of course, I also don’t know anyone else under the age of thirty who would go to the annual homeowner’s association meeting on a weeknight.)

I was there because I wanted to understand how a homeowner’s association works, because eventually I might have a condo or townhome of my own. I also wanted to be invested in my community- no matter how tiny it is. Community and home are important because they nurture and provide for us, they shape and inform who we are. By understanding our community, in many ways we can start to understand ourselves.

I often fall into the trap of wanting to “save the world”, and by the world, I mean the whole world. However, in order to save the world, we may have to start with saving our own little corner of it. In my case, that means going to the homeowner’s association meeting and seeing what tree-care company we use and how our lawns are maintained. (I was pleasantly surprised, we work with a pretty well-known and reputable company!) I was also inspired by how invested the people that came to the association meeting are in their community and their home. Of course there were a few people who were clearly there to complain, but a lot of people really pay attention to what’s going on around them. As well they should. They’re paying to live here and they are invested in the success and value of their neighborhood.

I’m invested in the success of our planet- I know that’s a HUGE leap in scale, but it’s true. I live here, and my family lives here, and all of the people I love live here. My children and their children will live here. If I have to spend a little bit of time and trouble (and yes, money, by investing in sustainable action and sustainable business and energy), then so be it.

Start small. Go to your local town hall meeting. Hit up the neighborhood watch meeting in that’s your thing. Get involved in your local community garden club. Whatever interests you about where you are, get involved, no matter how small. It’s by starting small that we can make a difference. Right at home, however we define it.