"You are still curled in the future, like seeds biding your time. Even though you are not yet born, I think of you often. I feel the promise of your coming the way I feel the surge of spring before it rises out of the frozen ground. What marvels await you on this wild Earth! When you do rise into the light of this world, you’ll be glad of your fresh eyes and ears, your noses and tongues, your sensitive fingers, for they will bring you news of a planet more wonderful and mysterious than anything I can tell you about in mere words.
"Mere words are all I have, though, to speak of what I’ve treasured during my days, and to say what I hope you’ll find when you take your turn under the sun. So I write this letter. As I write, I’m leaning against the trunk of a fat old maple in the backyard of our house here in the southern Indiana hills. It’s early one April morning, and the birds are loudly courting. I’m surrounded by the pink blossoms of wild geraniums, the yellow of celandine poppies, the blue of phlox. A thunderstorm is building in the western sky, and a brisk wind is rocking the just-opened leaves. My pleasure from wind and rain, from cloud drift and bird song, from the sound of creeks tossing in their stony beds, from the company of animals and the steady presence of trees — all of that immense delight is doubled when I think of you taking pleasure one day from these same glories."
"I hope you will find companion trees of your own, where you can hear the birds hurling their lusty cries and watch the flowers toss their bright blooms. May you climb into the branches to feel the huge body swaying beneath you and the wind brushing your face like the wings of angels.
"I hope you’ll be able to live in one place while you’re growing up, so you’ll know where home is, so you’ll have a standard to measure other places by. If you live in a city or suburb, as chances are you will, I hope you’ll visit parks, poke around in overgrown lots, keep an eye on the sky, and watch for the tough creatures that survive amidst the pavement and fumes. If you live where it never snows, I hope you’ll be able to visit places where the snow lies deep in winter. I want you to see the world clarified by that coating of white, hear the stillness, bear the weight and cold of it, and then relish warmth all the more when you go indoors. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll travel into country where the land obeys laws that people didn’t make. May you visit deep forests, where you can walk all day and never hear a sound except the scurry and calls of animals and the rustle of leaves and the silken stroke of your own heart."
"Thoughts of you make me reflect soberly on how I lead my life. When I spend money, when I turn the key in my car, when I vote or refrain from voting, when I fill my head or belly with whatever’s for sale, when I teach students or write books, ripples from my actions spread into the future, and sooner or later they will reach you. So I bear you in mind. I try to imagine what sort of world you will inherit. And when I forget, when I serve only my own appetite, more often than not I do something wasteful. By using up more than I need -- of gas, food, wood, electricity, space -- I add to the flames that are burning up the blessings I wish to preserve for you."
"If we take good care in our lifetime, you’ll be able to sit by the sea and watch the waves roll in, knowing that a seal or an otter may poke a sleek brown head out of the water and gaze back at you. The skies will be clear and dark enough for you to see the moon waxing and waning, the constellations gliding overhead, the Milky Way arching from horizon to horizon. The breeze will be sweet in your lungs and the rain will be innocent."
"Thinking about you draws my heart into the future. I want you to look back on those of us who lived at the beginning of the 21st century and know that we bore you in mind, we cared for you, and we cared for our fellow tribes -- those cloaked in feathers or scales or chitin or fur, those covered in leaves and bark. One day it will be your turn to bear in mind the coming children, your turn to care for all the living tribes. The list of wild marvels I would save for you is endless. I want you to feel wonder and gratitude for the glories of Earth. I hope you’ll come to feel, as I do, that we’re already in paradise, right here and now."
And indeed we are.
These photographs of Tilly and Howard were taken on Tilly's last walk before her operation. She's been through a lot since then, with a quiet courage and a steadfast trust in us that melts my heart. Every day now she's a little bit better, her joie de vivre returning with her strength; and soon we'll be rambling the woods and fields and riverside together once again.
Patience, patience, Little Sausage, I tell her. We're almost there.
"We Bear You in Mind" was first published in Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, and reprinted in Orion Magazine. You can read it in full here. The poem in the picture captions is from The River at Wolf by Jean Valentine (Alice James Books, 1992). All right reserved by the authors.