Heed The Call
Heed the Call…
If you are like me, sometime, someone, in your life has uttered that phrase, “You need to heed the call.”
I kept my ear to the wind most of my younger years listening for that call. I didn’t know if was going to be a bell or a gong, a whisper or a yell. But I spent a very long time craning my neck to hear it. Then it came one day, that feeling you get when someone is staring at you, and that someone was a big beautiful buck staring silently at me from about 100 yards away.
At the time I was a young apprentice starting out in what I thought would be a career in welding. I loved “burning” metal, the taste of Iron, the smell of the leather I was covered in from head to toe to keep me from setting myself on fire, made me feel like a cowboy. The union hall sent me out on my second big detail to this job site at a coal mine and steam plant in the once wooded lands of western Washington not too far from where I grew up.
When I pulled up the first day I remembered had been there before, it was in middle school and we were working on a unit about alternative power in science class. It was a modern looking building of glass and steel, and I remember it like a castle set upon a mixture of rolling hill and forest. The inside of the plant looked like something out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, different colored pipes going this way and that, no Umpaloompas, just a very stern ruddy faced man who seemed displeased with my thirteen year old rapid fire questions. I couldn’t help myself, I was excited about what I thought they were doing there. I thought they were changing the world for the better, at least that was what they were touting.
From the cab of my pickup on that day I returned twelve years later, I looked out to a different scene. All the trees around it were gone, the forest now om the distant horizon around the vast coal pit. The once rolling hills were now craters in the ground with teams of giant dump trucks puffing out smoke from the exhausts pipes, their enormous tires loaded down with piles of coal. The once gleaming castle of a plant looked dusty and decrepit. I closed my open mouth and swallowed back my pride a bit, I needed this job. Driving through their security check point felt like I was driving into the gates of Hell, but in I went.
I worked there for almost two months with no days off. Welding inside small me sized holes each day for 12 hours. We were building a strip line crane, at least the UFO shaped platform of it that would allow the crane to swivel over hillsides, pulling and tugging at the earth. It was nearing the end of our project and I was nearing the end of my strength. I crawled out of the hole to be greeted by one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed in my life.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I spotted a large buck standing about 100 yards from me, just staring at me. While the other crew members clanged on below me, I was frozen, transfixed by this stoic creature’s gaze. I felt my heart squeeze like a fist as I watched him walk back to the forest. I knew I was participating in something that just wasn’t right, something akin to grave robbing, digging up the undisturbed burial grounds of those that once walked this land and ruining it for those living now.
Driving home that night with tears in my eyes, I decided to take a detour to my parent’s house. Through sobs I told my father about what had happened, “It’s just not right. They ripped up all the land, his home. I can’t do this.” My father was a huge nature lover. He instilled in us the sense of an honorable hunt, the importance of knowing the land and the life within it. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You can stay here if you need to, save money. Find you a job in the environment.”
So, that’s what I did, and now some two decades later I find myself perched on the edge of something not right again. Despite mine and my countless colleagues efforts working “in the environment”, I’m still looking out across an increasingly barren landscape. We haven’t made a dent in what needs to change to avoid what is already happening.
Many of us in the climate field have been trying to sound the alarm for a long time now. Political and financial pressures have muffled and redirected that alarm. I’ve drifted away from my former career in climate and my Father isn’t here anymore to advise me on what I should do. Also, now I’m the parent with a twenty year old adult child of my own staring at their horizon and wondering what to do.
He just started his sophomore year in college, but its his first year on campus due to the pandemic. His generation was the first to practice school shooter drills, to go from climate “change” to climate crisis, from auditorium filled graduates to drive thru graduations from because of a pandemic, and witness an attempted insurrection on our national’s capital instigated by a sitting president on our congressional body, allegedly. I have to add that, right? Allegedly.
Like the fruit that doesn’t fall far from the tree, my Son is studying conservation science. Of course that makes me proud, but it also means he is old enough to know what’s in store and will be studying it in depth. Maybe even documenting and witnessing it for a living like I did. He’s going to feel lost and a little lonely sometimes and it’s really important to me that he knows his center is his North, and that life is always very much worth living, even if the living gets tough.
It occurred to me that his future might be my calling now, its likely it was all along. So, I’m writing this first article for you, Son, and dedicating all of them after to you as well. I hope the words I share here give you a little light on dark days and some hope to refill your cup when its low. I hope to leave you some gold nuggets or bread crumbs on how to navigate this beautiful world we live in no matter what. If it helps a few of you that may come across these stories, articles and ruminations, then that’s a good thing too.
The terror in parenting is knowing you can’t control much of what happens to your child, you can only raise them with some knowledge and set them free. It’s like making a copy of your own heart and releasing it out into the world to be loved, broken and hopefully healed all over again. The terror in writing and then publishing it is the same, but I have to answer its call. Here we go…