Day 81: Poachers

A few years back I read the advice that you should always make your bed. Applying this small bit of discipline, they said, could be life changing. Have you’ve heard this too? In case you haven’t, the idea is this: Even if your whole day (after making your bed) is crap, you can walk into the room at the end of the crap-day and feel like at least you accomplished one thing. You can be calmed down by the orderly look of your bed and climb in more peacefully than you would trying to get comfortable with a jumbled mess of sheets, blankets and dirty underwear strewn about.

In this vein, I have found that making an effort to complete one small task early in the morning, no matter what it is, actually gets your mind set to accomplish other tasks, but in addition, it does indeed act as an anchor for the day.

In some ways that’s how I feel about the morning walk. It’s almost always incredibly peaceful. It’s often beautiful, even when it’s cloudy or like today–when it rains. I try to capture this feeling by taking a picture each day-a flower, a tree, a path—It doesn’t matter what it is, the picture has become a touchstone of sorts.

After the walk, I spend the next 12 hours on what feels like a very hilly roller coaster with my two little maniacs.

After bedtime, I page through the photos from the day and suddenly remember the walk. I breath deep for probably the first time since the morning and realize I’m so thankful that I took that walk, saw that woodpecker, enjoyed the silence because after that pristine few minutes, the day was a circus or a train wreck. But the proof is in the photo–I went on that walk, I heard myself think, and I am reminded that the whole day was not a loss.

Today was like that. The rain fell down outside in buckets from the heavy clouds, seeming to mirror the world’s exhaustion and deep distress. The girls feel it too. It’s the incidental music in every scene, a tense sharp violin, a fast pulse, an irritated Daddy, a worried mommy.

An argument erupted over their play store that resulted in kicking and screaming and such flipped-out behavior that I actually felt bad for Big Sister because she clearly felt so out of control. She took some time to settle herself down with Daddy (working from home has its perks) while I took Little Bean to the pediatrician for her last set of vaccinations.

As a result of Corona, the doctor’s office was so sterile that there were no toys in the waiting room anymore. Little Bean stayed on my lap the entire time we were waiting, which is very out of character for her and she actually ran away from the doctor when she saw him. I had to collect her down the hall.

Later Big Sister and I had some puzzle time. In the middle of it she started talking about Africa–a fragment of a conversation we had yesterday. She had seen a field and exclaimed that it looked like Africa. Africa has a yellow, orange ground, she said authoritatively. It’s not green. I was asking her what else she knew about Africa when she suddenly stopped working on the puzzle and said, Africa is where those people shoot elephants.

Oh. I said, a bit startled at the topic change. If you remember on Day 12, I accidentally let the girls watch a cartoon about an elephant mommy who got shot by a poacher. Since then I’ve answered her questions but haven’t lingered much over the details. That cartoon wasn’t nice, I’ll say and it’s upsetting but that does happen. Poaching is high on our list of conversation topics–up there in frequency with conversations about jail, the weather, what kind of helicopter is in the air, and whether we can watch something or go to a playground.

Today she continued, I think when I’m older I’m going to get a gun and shoot the poachers who are shooting the elephants. Then they will see how that feels.

My eyes widened as she talked, May-day, May-day, May-day, abort mission! I thought. Oh boy, did I want to get out of this conversation. Her seriousness hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew this was an important moment but I didn’t know if I was up for it.

I responded quietly, shaking my head and looking into her eyes, No, no, no, I said, No one can learn anything when they are dead. Shooting people is not a way to teach them a lesson.

She shook her head, looking frantic. When she began again her voice started to crack. Yes, but if we don’t shoot them, now holding back tears, they will keep doing it. Then she really started to cry, How will we stop them? We have to do something.

Overwhelmed she just cried into me for a few minutes. She is turning 5 next week. Such big feelings for such a little girl. I hugged her and explained that some of those people get caught and are put in jail. Then as usual we discussed the details of jail.

Her sense of justice is so intense, and she is so very sensitive. The devastation and injustice so clear in her mind. I know that this conversation was probably a gift. A warm-up for all the difficult conversations to come. The ones I had with my mom–about the holocaust and slavery, racism and rape, abuse, poverty and addiction. They are all poachers of one kind or another when you think about it. Oh man. That’s the kind of day today was.

It was not a bad day. No, it wasn’t. Everyone went to bed safe and loved, but it was heavy and so I was very relieved to remember my morning walk when I looked through the photos this evening.

So make your bed or go for your walk, do your meditation, drink your coffee in silence–Whatever it is you assign yourself for your morning task, see it through. Everyone in your life will benefit, especially you.

Until tomorrow,


2 thoughts on “Day 81: Poachers

  1. Wow, that is intense! Those questions are really hard. I am so grateful that you had the presence of mind to let her express her feelings and questions and to feel her sadness. You are a wonderful Mom!!


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