Teach our children well: a story about trillium

I keep meaning to get to that next novel. Write it, that is. (The one that lies in wait, somewhere, inside me.) Instead, other words infiltrate my not-still brain, urging it on with a different, pressing demand. Another blog. My brain is obsessive. It rapidly composes, adding words to one another, making it hard to pull myself away, even if it’s time to be at work or cook a meal. Often the words seep in as I walk or bike, as during yesterday’s cycling commute: trillium poking through winter debris in Tryon Creek Park’s understory. At least I’m getting a bit wiser, no more distraction-induced crashes for me: I stop. For lack of pen and paper, dictate a few words into my phone for later completion.

Trillium make me think of spring which makes me think of Oregon which makes me think of my now grown daughters which make me think of nature. Yesterday’s trillium led to today’s blog: another piece my brain insists on being written. It is no surprise how many days I simply don’t get on to that novel! 

One spring afternoon when my own kids were young, I went to pick them up at day care. As I entered my five-year-old daughter’s classroom, the teacher proudly announced, “Look what lovely spring flowers the children picked today.” I looked at the jar of ten single-stemmed, white-and-pinkish blooms. I turned to her aghast. Speechless.
     “We walked across the street to Mary Young Park,” she added.
 “The flowers were all over.”
      Mary S. Young Park: a vast natural haven bordering the Willamette
 River as it flows through the Portland southern suburban town of

 West Linn. A park boasting cottonwoods, maples, and Douglas fir.
 One of my family’s favorite places.
      “You didn’t,” I said, my voice louder than it should have been.
 Outraged.
     “Why?” she asked.
       My own daughter was now looking at me.
      “You should know,” I said, “it’s illegal to pick this flower.” Not sure
 that this was true, but comfortable using a commonly shared Oregon
 myth to make my point.
       The teacher turned away to help other parents collect their kids.
 Unconcerned. I shook my head as I gathered my daughter and moved
 into the other room to collect her toddler sister. As we drove the short
 but steep distance home, I muttered disapproval for this teacher’s lack
 of respect for our natural world. Of our own backyard.
        “You girls know,” I added, “that you shouldn’t pick any kind of
 flower in a park, especially trillium, right?”
        “Yes, Mom,” they said in chorus, beginning the early art of eye
 rolling. There was no mistaking, though. Teacher had done a very bad
 thing.

Chapter 3: Baseball, My Music Man

I am certain, all those years ago as a new parent, thoughts I had about what was most important to teach our daughters were abstract, unspecific. To be kind – grateful – love one another. Did I take it for granted that because we valued the natural world, they would too? I didn’t think much about, then, how much we know now, that by caring about the environment, we support efforts to protect it, and that our own well-being is enhanced by getting out in it. How much privilege we have to be able to share such beauty with them. Today, our grown daughters have launched into the adult lives they are creating. As much as I worry about climate change, social injustices, and the loss – in some cases – of basic human kindness, I am ecstatic in their love of two things: each other, and the natural world around them. Our daughters are best friends, and getting out is a most important part of their lives. Although I may briefly feel left out when they head to the woods or mountains, alone together, I couldn’t imagine feeling happier. Happier at the choice these strong women make to hike or backpack alone, but together, into wild places.

They share their values with others around them, whether it be small children, or decision-makers. For this I give thanks. Pure, thanks.

E and E Near Broken Top, Central Oregon, ~1999

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