It’s a rainy day today.
As I walk to the library, people pass beneath bright umbrellas. A little boy splashes in a puddle and
giggles. Inside the library I tuck
myself into a corner and set down my computer and my bag of crocheting. A woman punches numbers into her calculator
and frowns, pencil poised over her workbook.
She’s got an open can of Red Bull with a yellow straw poking out of the
top. She takes a long drink and stares
out the window before returning to her work; jamming her left hand into her
hair and resting her head there.
I pull out my book: Becoming Native to this Place by
Wes Jackson. In his essay “Nature as
Measure,” Jackson says that we cannot just save the remaining wilderness we have,
but must work to save all the other places in our lives—the places where we
live and work and go to school. “Either,”
Jackson says, “all the earth is holy or none is.”
There’s a farm close to where I live: A couple of barns with
white paint flaking off the sides. Outbuildings. A farmhouse with wooden floors
throughout. A few years ago, the farm
went on the market. I figured it would
go to the developers. Instead, the local
township purchased the farm and leased it.
The fields have recently been plowed.
A local artist’s community is renting the farmhouse. And it’s here that Squints takes a weekly art
There’s a pond to the left of the gravel driveway. Ducks and turtles make their home here. Canadian geese watch from the field to the right. Their eggs have hatched: Fuzzy yellow
goslings toddle after their mothers, pecking here, then there, then over there,
foraging for food. There’s a killdeer
too, nesting in the driveway. When we
approach with the car, she cries and dashes out on twig legs. She drags her right wing along the gravel,
pretending to be injured to draw predators away from her nest.
Sixteen years ago, when my husband and I built our house on
my parents’ forty acre farm, a killdeer nested in that driveway, too. The builders, hard-working, hard-swearing men,
encircled the nest with the red flags my dad uses to mark his vegetable garden. Every time we visited the house—to paint, to
stain, to inhale the sweet scent of sawdust and hardwood floors, or just to
admire the house—the killdeer would leave her nest and feign injury.
Outside, the rain picks up.
Squints likes this sort of rain; a cleansing rain. A rain that washes the pollen from the trees. He’s had an awful time with allergies this
year. He’s on four medications. None of them seem to be working. And he’s constantly grumpy.
The other day, I consulted one of my herbal books and learned
of something I could try in place of his medicines. Something that used to be pervasive before it
was labeled a weed. Something that’s a
natural antihistamine. Something that
has very few side effects and no warning label.
Something I suspect grows in abundance on my parent’s forty-acre farm.
Squints’ doctor gave me the go-ahead. She asked me to let her know how it
Used to be you could walk outside and find this weed easily. Today, you have to forage for it. And you have to know what you’re looking for.
In my development, no such weeds grow. And so, I head to the herbal store to pay for
something that nature provides at no charge.
At the library, a little girl runs around the calling out “Mommy?”
The loudspeaker comes on.
A woman is paged. “Please come to
the reference desk. Your daughter is
looking for you.”
Instantly, the mother emerges from the picture books section,
her son on her hip. She bends down
before her child and comforts her.
Together, they check out their books and head home.
Before me, the woman with the calculator opens her second
can of Red Bull; transfers her bent yellow straw to the new can and continues
frowning over her work.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Environmentalism, Raising Children