I used to live by a small pond. I remember walking its edges often, along a secret and overgrown path which led to my castle — an old gazebo.
During the summers mosquitos flew rampant, stealing tastes of my sweet flesh and leaving an itchy blemish behind. But I loved walking the beaten path to hear the sound of frogs plopping headfirst into the water and to catch the occasional glimpse of a snapping turtle. I always envied the swans who came back every year, taunting me with their effortless grace — something I severely lacked as an awkward six-year-old, still growing into my head.
In the winters, I longed for the swans to return as snow fell from branches above me. I occasionally ventured out to the pond when it was cold enough to walk along its solid surface. I slipped and slided, knowing the swans would disapprove, but was careful enough to avoid the thinner parts of the ice. I ventured to the center of the pond, sitting down to catch my breath, and imagined summer’s return.
As life got busier, my visits became less frequent. The harsh realities were revealed as my imagination gave out. That magical lens was burned by the devastatingly dry days of summer. I remember one visit down to the gazebo. I remember the burning smell of liquor that caught my nose before I even saw it. I must have been about ten years old when I saw the shattered beer bottles across the gazebo’s rotting planks, along with six-pack beer rings and cans leaking into the water. I remember standing there barefoot wondering, what happened?
I think it was at that moment that I began to notice our broken relationship with our environment. It wasn’t until years later that I would understand the implications of that relationship as the cause of climate change, but at the time, I could only understand that what happened was wrong.
I returned again that summer to find caution tape smothering the gazebo as the earth began reclaiming what was once its own. Caution. Well, its warning was too late. The gazebo was already half-submerged below the water’s surface.
As the earth touches every aspect of our lives, we must question the ways we respond. Its air hugs us with promises of oxygen, of life. That promise is now threatened. What are the warning signs we have ignored for so many years? There are too many to name. But the climate crisis is real. It is here and now, touching every aspect of our lives from our front doors to the secret hideaways of our childhood.