It’s Parents and Family Weekend at UMO. I looked at my daughter across the table, her smile accentuated her high cheekbones. She was smiling because she was texting a friend, not because this was the first time in a month that she'd seen her mother and I.
I realized, proudly, that she was in her element, a first-year college student, at home and happy. She didn't need us, except for some spending cash, she had taken flight and left the nest. Her wings unfurled away from our parental shade.
My daughter is so smart, so beautiful and kind, it's hard to believe she isn't really the daughter of the postman. She is the reflection of my ideals but not my actions.
She looked up from her texting, and smiled a wry smile, as she realized I had been studying her. I am so proud of her. The best of me, ready to make a difference in our world. For years she has been the environmental maven of our home. She was quick to point out a banana peel in the trash and not the compost.
Perhaps soon, she'll speak out like Rachel Carson. But sadly, the problem now is not DDT, but it has happened just the same, but for a more insidious reason, the unimaginable loss of birds in north America. Thirty percent, 3 billion birds have vanished from our sky since I hiked as a kid in the woods of my rural town. I remember my steps were accompanied by song birds and crackling of leaves under my feet, and the feel of the cool flakes of the season’s first snow.
Years passed, and before I knew it, I was a father trying to catch falling leaves with my daughter near the shores of a pond. I heard from high overhead, a flock of migrating geese crying out, a warning that I wasn’t prepared to hear.
Three billion, that's 3,000,000,000. Will my daughter and her generation be able to make a difference when the political leaders of my generation are too self-serving to acknowledge the realities of a changing planet.
I'd like to think they will. Aren't all teens and twenty somethings, environmentally in-tune and scientifically aware?
Last week, I saw a picture of a high school cheerleading squad holding a banner with the slogan Make America Great Again, Trump 2020. And I realized that it isn't youthfulness that will make the difference for the billions of birds and people. It is the collective voice and votes of millions of people who acknowledge what the preponderance of science informs us.
I have no doubt how my daughter will vote on 2020. I have no doubt that she will vote; she is aware and enlightened. What does worry me is I don't know how the cheerleaders in North Carolina will vote. And I don’t know how the people who wanted the swamp drained will vote.
I am afraid for my country and my world. I am afraid for the whales hunted in the Sea of Japan, and the polar bear who swims ceaselessly searching for ice. I am burdened by scenes of fires burning across the Amazon. And I’m sickened by the thought of birds and species that soon may not exist.
My daughter's mischievous blue eyes squinted as she contorted her face making what my family calls 'scrunch face'. My smile returned; my melancholy lifted. I pray that in 2020, I will learn that there are more stewards of this planet than there are consumers of her beauty.