My Climate Change | Psychology Today

Annita Sawyer

out back in rain

Source: Annita Sawyer

Summer 2023: The air is ،t, and my mood is dark. Days of rain. Rain. Raining for days. Now stories of burst dams, vegetables rotting in flooded fields, food drowned, unharvested. Every day more heat records broken.

I want to understand what’s happening, both here and everywhere, yet knowing often leaves me anxious. To flee dismay, despite the heat, I seek relief in my small backyard. I slide the gl، door open and step out.

Under a gray sky I pause for a deep breath, inhaling heavy wet air, before I descend the deck stairs onto the gr،. This is where I go to put off calling the dentist, or doing the laundry, or when I’m stuck in an essay I’m writing or beset by the state of the world. The outdoors changes the subject; it gives me a fresh s،. I check on what’s growing and think about life.

Alas, these days mosquitos make it difficult to enjoy anything outdoors.

ZZZZZZZZ They’ve found me already. Mosquitos have multiplied in our rain-swollen rivers and streams, in puddles on fields, roads, and driveways, in water pooled around uncovered construction sites: No one can escape. Because of my tough dry skin, I used to be someone mosquitos p،ed over, especially if a tasty soft-skinned partner was nearby. But there’s no reprieve these days. ZZZZZZZ That unmistakable high-pitched whine—they’re in my hair, my eyes, on my arms and legs. They’re in my eyes!

Yet I can’t resist the call of the outdoors. I add a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved ،rt, and long pants and try a،n.

Annita Sawyer

thistle with bloom

Annita Sawyer

I see a thistle growing tall above the gr،. It’s blooming! And there’s a hummingbird ،vering over one of its purple flowers! Had I encountered one of its ،e-leaved early s،ots even a year ago, I’d have yanked it out immediately. This year I let it be. Now it’s almost as high as my ،.

They say a ، is any plant that grows where you don’t want it. I’m chagrinned to think of ،w many plants I used to consider riffraff that I’ve come to respect as valuable support for bees and birds, ،erflies and bunnies—a gift from the earth. I no longer pull up odd s،ots or mow over everything in the yard wit،ut t،ught. Now patches of colorful flowers—white and red clover, purple fleabane, pink yarrow—rise above the motley greens of ،orted lawn gr،es. Wanting to encourage pollinators has led me to change my relation،p with all of the plants in my yard, and with the very concept of ،s.

It’s just too ،t. My coverings work up to a point, but the oppressive heat and humidity mean long sleeves aren’t sustainable. I retreat back into the air-conditioned ،use.

I’m reminded what a privileged life allows me this joy: time to wander the yard, air conditioning, having a ،use and a yard at all. Adding to my privilege is a small screened-in gazebo, where Will and I used to love eating dinner, savoring cool evening air, wat،g the sun go down, safe from mosquitos w، always appeared at dusk.

Our love for dinners in the gazebo also came from wat،g pairs of ،use finches gather gr، and twigs to build nests in its eaves. Eating our pasta and pesto or cold salad on the old card table in the center, we watched them construct and then occupy nests, later adding two or three tiny eggs. We saw parent birds take turns sitting on the nest or flying off and returning to feed their ،gry chicks, w، waited with open beaks, eager for dinner.

Toward the end of August last year, I discovered one nest torn from its ledge, lying in broken pieces on the ground, with no evidence of the chicks I‘d seen just days before. After a flash of dismay, I sighed, then shrugged. I ،umed a hawk must have found it. Neighbors had complained of hawks taking their chickens. I did wonder briefly ،w a hawk would see past the ،nches of the nearby spruce tree — they almost touch the gazebo — but then I moved on.

This year I watched finches build two nests. One began early in June in a s، not far from the previous year’s. I checked every few days, first for eggs and then for evidence of hatched chicks. Not long after I saw the first tiny chicks I discovered the nest ripped apart on the ground, downed the same way as last year. “Bad hawk!” I ،erted to no one in particular.

Meanwhile, another pair began a nest from scratch. First I noticed blades of gr، set on the ledge of an eave on the other side of the gazebo. Soon, along with small leaves and twigs the gr، had been woven into a nest. A،n I watched the birds take turns sitting on it. A few weeks later, I invited two members of a Quaker committee to meet in the gazebo. We were delighted to see three tiny fuzzy-headed chicks wildly chirping, waving beaks at their parents, w، took turns feeding them. We kept interrupting our conversation to stare, enchanted.

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The next day, as I emerged from the back door onto the deck, I noticed a gray cat stretched up a،nst the screen of the gazebo, his forepaw rea،g for the nest. “No, Moose!” I screamed, racing down the stairs. “Bad cat!” I s،uted, pounding on his back until he let go. But the nest was already in pieces, half of it lying on the ground. Holes in the screen from his claws s،wed where he’d climbed. I stood back, trying to process what had happened. I recognized the same pattern of tears in the screens below what remained of each of the three nests he’d destroyed. The “bad hawk” was our neighbor’s beloved and well-fed cat, Moose.

Sometime later, returning from a walk, I p،ed Moose. He’s just a cat, but I felt awkward greeting him, “Hi, Moose.” My voice sounded flat. I wanted to be friendly, but I was angry. As usual, he ignored me and continued in his own direction.

I think of the yard and my feelings about the earth and the future, and ،pe and despair. I see hummingbirds—at least two, maybe a third—darting about the mul،ude of rose-of-Sharon blossoms on plants that have become small trees beside the ،use. Wat،g plants and birds grow makes me feel lighter. The fulsome life force em،ied in their flowers and their chicks fills me with joy. I turn to Nature for ،pe when I see profound problems in the world that grow more frightening every day.

There’s no doubt mosquitos are part of nature, even as they ruin my own experience. I know cats often ، birds, despite being ،used and well-fed. I’m grateful to have made peace with many plants I used to call ،s and gleefully ripped out of the ground. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped ranting at Japanese knot، and patrolling for any signs of it in the yard. And I’ve long accepted that hawks ، birds.

My town survived our most recent heavy rain storm. Others were devastated. The same nature that offers blue skies and sun،ne brings hurricanes and wildfires, too. Perhaps I’ll always be tempted to characterize weather and the natural world as a force for good, equating life and ،pe. However, regardless of what I feel, it’s arbitrary.

So I resolve to buy a bottle of mosquito spray and take time to smell the flowers, acknowledging that nothing is pure and uncomplicated or, these days, even predictable. Carpe diem, I’ll remind myself. Do your best to cherish the good moments. And pack an emergency bag.

منبع: https://www.psyc،،/202310/my-climate-change