My cousin and I were very close growing up. He’s about 6 months older and grew up outside of Portland, Oregon. I spent the bulk of my childhood in coastal Texas, but our parents made a point of us spending time together. His parents, educated, creative, and progressive, made sure he grew up with his eyes wide open and since I looked up (and still do) to him quite a bit, a lot of that rubbed off on me. When I was 20 I went out to spend some time with my cousins, aunt, and uncle in Oregon. I remember him coming up behind me one morning and shutting the water off as I stood like an oaf in front of the running faucet while brushing my teeth. I never did it again. He said nothing, but his example was wonderful. We took morning road trips to waterfalls and hiked around Mount Hood. He taught me about the heartbreak of clear cutting, and of many other hidden unjust stories. As an adult, he is a talented writer and has been researching the effects of spilled jet fuel on neighboring communities for years. The clusters of cancer victims surrounding these airports are staggering.
BUT I digress…
My point is that he was my strongest inspiration in becoming an environmentalist.
My cousin and his youngest son a few years ago
The sermon on the day of Will’s Christening was given by a guest speaker who told us “How to Raise an Environmentalist”. Her point was spot on. You raise an environmentalist not by reading scary stories about oil spills and global warming, but by teaching them to be in love with nature so that they care about what happens to it. My daughters have both spent hours with me in my canoe, on nature walks, tending to our gardens and the wild birds who visit. Autumn has camped with me in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and kayaked in Lake Superior Provincial Park on the crystal clear waters of Pancake Bay. We’ve hiked up beautiful waterfalls, rappelled along cliffs covered in ancient Ojibwe pictographs, explored the Grand Canyon and the deserts of Arizona. As Sophia and Will get older, I’ll take them on similar trips.
Around the house, we try to incorporate ways to make our impact on our surroundings a bit more kind. My friend Aaron inspired me to ditch our old gas mower in favor of a rotary-style and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. Mowing our yard is now a quiet and enjoyable experience instead of a loud, smoky one. -Plus I think it does a better job.
I’ve been wanting to add a rain barrel for ages and finally got one put up today. This one from Fiskars was $55 at Home Depot and came with a diverter for our downspout. It’s almost the same color as our fence, so when it’s tucked into the corner we barely notice it. I attached a soaker hose to it, which snakes in and out of the hostas and hibiscus in our yard, then over to the chicken coop where I have a handy way to fill their water tank.
We have several different types of bird feeders which attract a wide range of birds through the summer as well as the winter, when we put out a heated bird bath.
We try to show our kids that nature isn’t somewhere you go on vacation, that it’s away and at home. We go exploring and then come home to take care of our tiny square of it. I’m proud of my children and their love for nature. I know they’ll always be good citizens of the earth not because they fear for it’s future, but because they are being raised to have compassion for it and enjoy the beauty it has it offer.