Dear Future Son or Daughter,
When I think of the Earth and the natural world as an eighteen year-old college freshman, I think of the Moir Park, Woodlake Nature Center, and Normandale Lake, all places in Bloomington, Minnesota that have shaped my childhood. My family and I would spend countless summer days at what I believed to be the greenest and most beautiful park in existence, despite the proliferance of mosquitos and sticky air that hung from the trees above. The air would always smell faintly of maple and of families grilling their Sunday lunches, with their kids occupied at the playground and the teenagers spending daylight playing frisbee golf. Further down the path, a steady stream interrupted the park, a few feet of sand molding into a river with the most impeccable skipping stones that seemed to have a never ending supply. The large, piercing rocks of sand stabbed my trodding little feet as I would sprint to the river for sweet release, where the sand turned soft like play-dough and the current would be just enough to provide the most tranquil sensation. I would stay there stationary until my name was called to retrieve my fresh-off-the-grill hotdog, as I would pay my goodbyes to the dime-sized clams that were scattered across the beach.
Woodlake Nature Center was my safe space to escape to whenever I needed to regroup with the wilderness and ground myself, which I found myself needing even as a young child. My mother would take me along with her when she would take the dogs on a walk, as I strolled alongside her with my bright yellow bucket to collect toads during the walk. Woodlake made me realize my affinity for amphibians and bees, as well as taught me the fundamentals of the natural world which were brought forth through numerous visits and birthday parties there. I remember vividly the view from the small boardwalk that connected two sides of a pond, with cattails touching the sky and a horizon of plain that went on forever. The air was the most crisp I ever breathed, which I miss dearly now as I write this next to my open window in Lincoln Park, Chicago. The air will never match up to Woodlake air.
Although the many picturesque nature preserves in my hometown hold a dear place in my heart, the most eternal memories come from Normandale Lake, the absolutely horrid, algae-covered man-made lake just five minutes from my house. The smell never ceased to be absolutely abominable, something of rotting fish and infected waters. The lake would flood every spring and freeze over every winter, resulting in unpredictable water levels upon each visit. Despite the gruesome condition of this lake, I always seemed to find the best things about it. The turtles that would line up against the one hilly part of the walking path to lay their eggs for the season, the annual city-wide fireworks, and the incredible waterfall that signified the end of a lap around the lake that overlooked the ski jump, best accompanied by an orange and pink sunset. The most important aspect of Normandale Lake for me, however, is the significance it holds to me and my father’s relationship.
As I have told you, me and my father were the best of friends who would do absolutely anything for one another. Our love for each other was so genuine and huge, and I was constantly assured that every step I took would be supported by him, which brings the biggest smile to my face today. For as long as I remember, we would take pride in our hour set aside everyday for a long walk around Normandale or Calhoun in Minneapolis. It became a daily ritual as long as it was temperate outside, and we would complete every trek with a coffee date and a catching-up session about each of our days. In 2015, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, I thought our bond would fracture. However, it only grew stronger. He lost his ability to walk due to his tremendously weakened muscles, but I was determined not to let this minor setback devastate our tradition. Each and everyday since he was out of the hospital, I would take him out for a walk. It began only being to the end of the culdesac, then to the end of the street, all accompanied by a wheelchair or cane. After half a year of this, he finally gained enough strength to join me on our walks around Normandale Lake one again. Until the day I left for college, Wojtek and I would spend an hour a day at this putrid lake, rekindling the beauty of our father-daughter relationship.
When I think of these nature-rich areas of my childhood, I feel absolutely overjoyed, and I want you to have the same connection with the outside world as I had.
As you know, the planet is suffering. You aren’t going to be able to see the same things as I have in my life, like maybe a polar bear or the marsh in my backyard, and this haunts me to imagine the changes that are going to occur further down the road.
At seventeen, I decided to go vegan, a life choice that has changed me for the better completely. I know that whatever I consume is not hurting anybody or the resources others need to live their lives, which I believe, in a way, has made me a more vigilant and compassionate individual. My fondness for the environment grew so substantial that I decided to dedicate my college major to learning more about it and what I can do to truly make a difference.
With all this, I urge you to be conscious in your everyday life. I urge you to become educated on your impact and what you can do to reduce it. The planet depends on future generations and individuals like yourself to keep its beautiful, prolific reserves running for years to come.