Monday, December 16, 2019

A time to give

By Beth Sullivan
Those of us who are a bit older feel the fleetness of the passing years. The little ones, however, feel the time stretching too long from one year to the next. So much happens in one year. So many changes. One thing that does remain consistent, is that the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year is a time of looking outward, thinking of what we have been given and of what we can give in return.
For many of us with small children in our lives, it is easy to give material items. There are amazing new educational toys now, many based on science. There are wonderful new books that explain life, diversity, fairness, and kindness. We try to choose wisely.
But this year has made me, along with many others, begin to seriously wonder what life will be like for these children we cherish so much. There are so many frightening scenarios: social, political or economic. But the one that gives me the greatest fear is the environmental one. What will our Earth be like in the next decades when our young children begin to take leadership roles? More and more we see reports of warming, glaciers melting, seas rising, and storms intensifying. We read of extinctions of creatures we either never knew, or took for granted. Maybe we, ourselves, don’t witness all of these. But what we do witness is the loss of bees buzzing in our gardens; we notice fewer birds, either in the woods, along the shore or even at our feeders. We notice greater number of trees dying from disease or infestations. We, who are a little older, notice these changes. Our children’s children may never experience the same kind of nature that we did. We didn’t experience the nature of generations before us. It makes me sad.
Children merely need an opportunity and will rejoice in nature.

The very youngest find happiness wandering with a friend. Photograph by S. McLarney.

History is preserved here, but we don't know how long it will last.

There is hope

Now, this is not meant to be a Grinch tale of holiday woe. I am still a hopeful person. There are so many amazing places to explore, miracles to witness, experiences that we can share with our children to help them cherish what we have come to know and appreciate. The gift of teaching love for our Earth, the gift of experiences, great or small, are things we can still give. These things don’t cost a lot; many are absolutely free. Most don’t take a lot of time. Most do not require a great deal of expertise. They require patience in the moment and foresight to the future.
We all have the time to take a walk, take a deep breath of clean air, and encourage a child to look deep into a pool of water or listen to spring peepers. If you don’t have a child in your life, maybe an elderly person would appreciate the same opportunity. Maybe, most importantly, do it for yourself. Pay attention to Nature. Notice the changes. Notice the very small beauties close to our feet, and then look skyward and appreciate the sky and clouds we see through the trees.
But here’s the catch: we need to make sure these opportunities remain available for the future. We need to pass on our experiences and love, so that long after we are gone, there will remain people who remember, and places where they themselves can be refreshed and give the gift to others.
Here in our small corner of the world, we have the ability to change the way our future may look. We live in an area of great diversity of habitat and great opportunities to experience somewhat undisturbed nature. Organizations, like Avalonia, are dedicated to preserving what we can for future generations. Some of the areas are vast (by CT standards). Others are small gems easily explored. Over the last half-century Avalonia has protected over 4000 acres of land that will be an ever-present gift for you to share with your children and beyond.
As we face an uncertain future of changing climate that may indeed change the face of the land we love, we give thanks to those who can join us in our efforts to protect what we can, to preserve the waterways, the landscapes, the air we breathe and to give the wildlife a home so it too can be part of a future experience. We have to remain hopeful but act with urgency.

The joy of family explorations of a protected space is a great gift.
The face of our landscape, especially the shoreline, is being changed. 

Those in college now will be making very hard decisions in a few years.

Something for our children

We can give a valuable gift to our own children by giving them a membership to Avalonia, in this area, or another organization or land trust in your own area if you are reading this from afar. A membership doesn’t necessarily get you a mug, or a bag or a hat. We save our money to support our mission to preserve, protect, and educate. A membership for a family or a youngster can help begin the conversation about being in touch with nature, being part of a larger effort, and understanding the gifts that are present for all to enjoy, every day, not just at the holidays. It can sustain their commitment to watching and working toward a healthier environment.
It seems very fitting to me, that just this week, young Greta Thunberg was named the Person of the Year for 2019. I bet she spent a lot of her young life enjoying the gifts of the Earth.
Wishing you all a joyous holiday season, and a new year of peace and hope.
Together we can preserve the gift of place, so you can give the gift of time.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

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