Today's $4 adventure was to Wekiwa Springs State Park, just a few minutes off of I-4 outside of Orlando. It was another gorgeous day. February, I had forgotten, is a gorgeous month in Central Florida.
I did a lot of thinking today about place, about how where we are and where we live figure into our consciousness. One drives several miles through some of the more affluent subdivisions in the Orlando area to get to Wekiwa Springs State Park. There are golf courses whose nitrogen-sick runoff flows into the spring and river to upset the balance of plants and organisms. The houses and other buildings and roads here displace animals. Lots of them. The conspicuous consumption in Central Florida is hard on one's soul, if one's prone to contemplating such things, and maybe just a teensy weensy bit judgmental and sensitive to class markers.
It's a lot to bear. I shared none of this with the boys, of course. I don't think that burdening children with the Big Problems of our age--classism, environmental devastation--is a kind thing to do. But, I don't hide it, either, when it crosses our path. We talked about whether or not the egret below was going to make it. He ended up back on the near side of the road as the traffic started up again, but clearly was going to attempt another cross. Why? Woody wanted to know. Birds just do things a certain way, and that way doesn't work out well with cars.
The gopher tortoise in the second picture down was a captive one out with the ranger in the park when we arrived. They are a threatened species, due mostly to habitat loss. Their huge burrows can shelter up to nearly 400 other species during their lifetimes. Their disappearance would be devastating to Florida's fawna. Woody will probably never see one in the wild.
I was a kid, in the late '80s and early '90s, who wrote letters to Green Peace and wore dolphin pendants on black cords and had a collection of Ocean Conservancy t-shirts. I came to that interest and concern myself, and still, felt mostly overwhelmed by the message that the earth was (is) sick and dying and taking us all with her.
I am trying to take a different approach with my kids. We live lighter as a way of being, not out of a sense of wounded obligation or indignant martyrdom or righteous rejection (though I understand and have felt all those perspectives), but rather because it feels like a good thing to do and makes many things easier. We don't buy paper towels or disposable diapers=we keep our stuff out of the landfill, we save money, we have money to do other things (such as travel). We walk places=we save gas, we save money, we get exercise and again, have more money to do other things. We buy food from farmers markets and co-ops=we eat damn tasty meals, we get to cook together, we save money. You get the idea.
I think these kinds of arguments make more sense to kids. The full import of personal politics is seldom lost on teenagers. Most of them seek to understand the motives behind others' words and actions. We'll have those conversations, I'm sure.
But meanwhile, I don't want to poison the well. I want them to love living here, on earth. I want them to develop deep and nurturing connections to the places they live and visit. These, I think, are what's going to feed them and help our lands and waters the most.
The ecosystems of Central Florida are really, really cool. That's enough for me, for them, for now.