Wind in the Trees

For those of you who were never aware, I grew up on a small dairy farm just outside of Appleton Wisconsin. Yes, as my high school classmates so often reminded me, I was a “hay seed.” All though an often painful handle to accept, I later became comfortable with the moniker, but not until later in life when I looked back at the memories it evoked and the undeniable aspect of my character that it became.

Being a particularly beautiful day today, I was out on the deck of our home when the wind picked up and began rustling through the leaves of the trees that line our backyard. It was the sound of that wind through the trees and the cooling effect of it on my face and arms that brought back the memory. It poured over me and gently floated me back to a time when I was about ten or eleven years old. In this memory, I am back there with my brother, sitting under the grain trailer in the middle of one of our fields, a stem of timothy grass danging from the corner of my mouth and that reminiscent wind rustling through the trees, cooling us on a hot July afternoon. We are waiting for the combine my dad is operating to fill with the oats I and my brother will haul back to the grain building on our farm.

Though this was hard work for us when other boys our age were off playing sand lot baseball or down swimming in the river on a hot and lazy summer afternoon, it was none the less a very pleasant memory. It took me back to a time when things seemed so simple and so peaceful. When I still had an entire lifetime ahead of me. It was time spent with my brother and my dad. It was a time, even if I was a hay seed, that I was glad to be a farm kid and being told by my dad that he was proud of me.

Memories are like that. It can be the simplest thing that evokes them. The words of a song or a glance at an old picture may be all that’s required to take us back to a particular time or place. For me, it was the rustling of the wind through the trees on a warm spring morning. The key is to choose to hold onto those memories that evoke a sense of peace and calm. Of happy times with friends or family, or even just the beauty of someplace we once visited. Though it is often difficult to forget the harsher memories, we don’t need to go back there and we certainly should avoid reliving them. Choose instead those memories that take you back to a place of contentment. A time of wonder and opportunity.

We are more in control of our attitudes than we believe. Evoking positive, peaceful memories is an easy thing to do. Memories can calm us and even inspire us. And here’s a thought. We have the ability to both recall and create our memories. The next time you travel, the next time an activity feels special, the next time an event is especially emotional, sense the world around you in the moment. Take in the smell and sounds that surround you. Observe the people sharing the moment with you. Create the details of a memory worth recalling.

Listen to the wind. It might be calling you back.

Take the Exit

I just finished unpacking the last of my Amazon deliveries today. My garage is full of the entrails of packing Styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic tape and bags and of course forty pounds of cardboard. That was today. Two days ago I took my two grandchildren to McDonald’s. Even though we ate in, we dealt with the paper that wrapped our burger, the box it was placed in, the plastic straws and spoons wrapped in their own plastic protection. And of course, I drove everywhere as did the delivery vehicles dropping off my Amazon prizes.

What’s my point? I am an educated individual. As we dumped all of the McDonald’s waste into their one and only trash container, I could only pray that one of the McJobs was someone going through the trash to recycle the recyclables. Though I dutifully recycled everything I could from my Amazon packing and even went on-line to see if the Styrofoam could be recycled somehow, I still had indirectly created the pile of waste and could only wonder how many people would skip this process and just throw the whole works into the garbage bin, sentenced to eventually end up in a landfill.

All of this deniability is leading us to an inevitable end if we don’t personally and collectively change our ways. Science tells us that by 2050, if we continue at current levels, our polar ice caps will be gone and the resulting sea level rise will mean that parts of if not complete coastal cities will be gone. Granted, by 2050 I will likely be gone or at the very least, barely cognizant of what’s going on. My grandchildren, on the other hand will only be in their mid thirties and inheriting the mess we are creating. They will be contending with migration inland from coastal areas, hurricanes and typhoons that reach category 4 and 5 with frequencies never seen before, dangerous and permanent climate changes impacting year round weather. The only possible positive news is that the landfills will have created more ski hills.

In the face of this science, we have a political party that declares the science is just fake news. They bury their heads in the sand and make excuses stating that to beef up ecological standards would damage businesses and thus the economy. But if we continue at our current pace, that will be the least of our problems. Businesses can adapt. They can price in the cost of doing business the right way and we as consumers can make choices to do business with those that would. The science isn’t fake news. It’s science and educated people need to heed it.

We can continue to deny, we can pretend that we have more time than the science tells us, we can say it’s the next generation’s problem and not ours. As one politician from Utah offered as a solution, have more children and they will be smarter, even though he would also cut education funding, and they can solve the problem. The problem is that it will be too late. It is looking more and more like we may have only a decade to slow, stop and eventually reverse the impact of our behavior. We need politicians and leaders that get it.

So what’s a person to do? Here’s three ideas and I challenge you to add more ideas to the list.

1. Vote for politicians that will work on the issue. Even if you may not agree with some of their other policies, this problem is too important to not be approached by politicians willing to make the hard decisions needed to make a difference. They would strengthen not weaken standards, they would be willing to raise taxes to fund solutions, they would support alternate energy sources, namely solar, geothermal, wind and water. They would protect our green spaces and our National Parks. Make this a priority for them to earn your vote.

2. We can recycle and reuse. Learn what is and how to recycle. Reuse and re-purpose things. It can be as simple as taking your own bag to the grocery store. We can choose to do business with businesses that care about the environment and take measures to protect it. We can do everything possible to reduce our own carbon footprint. There are more internet sites popping up everyday that will provide us with the information we can use to accomplish this.

3. We can advocate with our voice, our feet and our money. We can fight for and support progressive candidates. We can attend forums and let our voice join others’ fighting for recognition of the problem and the change needed to facilitate a solution. We can write about it. We can stand up for it. We can stop denying.

We need to realize that we are on an interstate. It ends at extinction. We need to take the exit before it’s too late. We are not too small or powerless to make a difference.

Take the exit. Do it today because your tomorrow depends on it.

Making Time to Take Time

Today, as I was out driving, I heard one of my daughters’ favorite songs. “Cat’s in the Cradle”, by Harry Chapin was playing on my car radio. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been no better than the subject of the song or if maybe I had actually been more of a factor in their life than the father had been in that song?

We look into the eyes of our newborn children and want so many things for them, but basically we want them to be healthy and independent. If they come equipped for these two things, everything else falls into place. Health is not within our control, only a healthy life style. On the other hand, independence is a skill we either develop in them or they develop in spite of us.

Our children develop independence through and by the way we nurture them. We can be part of their life or we can be absent in it. When we are absent in their lives, they will become dependent on someone or something else to fill the void.

The problem we all face is the issue of that difficult balance between work and family. In today’s competitive, fast paced, over connected world, the balance may be lost all together. The demands on our time to be successful at our careers so that we can earn the living wage we need to support our families can tip that balance away from the very lives we are earning the living to support.

So what are we to do. First and foremost, we must clearly decide that family is our priority. If we do this, we will be better equipped to make decisions based on our family life as opposed to how much money can I make and how high up the ladder of success can I climb. I have not forgotten balance. We can not ignore the need to work to make a living, but if we make money our first priority, it becomes too easy to lose sight of everything else.

When I was working and raising my children, I set boundaries. As a teacher, I often faced hours correcting papers and working on curriculum. The catch here was that I could take it home with me. The danger….I could take it home with me. It was a delicate balance and sometimes, no oft times, required my doing that work late at night after they were tucked in. In the later years of my career, working as a tax planner, the tax season would demand long hours over the course of several months. I made a commitment to hold two evenings a week open for an earlier departure from work. I also committed to not going into work on Sundays. This required that I work harder and also more efficiently on those other days, but my commitment to family was my motivator and for the most part, kept me on task.

I know what you are thinking, easy to say but not always easy to do. I will admit that your employer must be on board with your commitment to family, and mine was. When you have a boss that demands so much of your time that there is never any time left for family, then you must answer the tough question, is this the right job for me? As I stated above, there will be times and or seasons that demand more time, but if your employer is at least willing to compensate with flex time following those high demand periods, then hopefully you can find your way through.

For me, the instant “Cat’s in the Cradle” is played, I am singing along with Harry. But it does not take long before I begin to wonder, was I just the same or did I drop everything to catch some ball with my daughters at least enough times that they noticed the time spent more than my absence. …..I can only hope I did.