Nineteen Love Notes to the Planet for 2019

This year, the Black Sheep Parent’s extended flock resolves to match love with action.

The Black Sheep Parent and her flock decided to start 2019 off by writing love letters to Planet Earth. (Photo by Brianna Sharpe)

As if New Year’s Eve didn’t come with enough pressure to make it awesome, it’s also my wedding anniversary. Over our five years of marriage, Eric and I have said goodbye to two dogs and hello to two kids, bought a house, shared countless cups of lukewarm coffee, and picked one another up (figuratively and literally) more times than we thought possible. It’s easy to forget how much we mean to one another — we often feel like two ships passing in a long, sleepless night. So, each anniversary, we read out our vows again, and we each tell the other how utterly loveable they are.

But Eric isn’t the only one I need to reconnect with this year — and while it’s generally frowned upon to write love letters to someone other than one’s spouse, I think mine will forgive me in this case. In my first Black Sheep Parenting column, I wrote that “We need our kids to see that we’re in a lifelong romance with the planet,” and described our small acts of sustainability as “love notes”:

They don’t replace the big work, but neither can we do without them. They’re the daily reminders of how precious this relationship is.

In honour of the new year, I’ve compiled 19 actual love notes to the Earth. Yes, it’s super cheesy, and no, I super don’t care. Most of these notes are from me, 4-year-old Little Grey Lamb, 2-year-old Mini Ewe (mainly moral and crayon support), and Eric. I also got some help from other families who want to shower our planet with love. Between us, we’ve made a list of 19 vows to the Earth — but instead of a bouquet, there’s a compost bucket.

I don’t want sustainable living and environmental advocacy to feel like just another onerous “should” for parents who are already working so hard. And I want to protect my kids from eco-anxiety for as long as possible, and wrap them instead them in love and hope, even if things are looking more desperate by the day. I hope that by starting with gratitude, and adding some realistic action items, this list of love notes can empower and inspire.

#1 Dear Earth, 
Your symphonies bring me to my knees. The sound of the wind blowing through branches, between blades of grass, and over rocks and roots makes me want to dance and stand in perfect stillness, all at once.

#2 Dear Earth, 
You make the biggest magic. Climbing trees, skiing through forests, dipping our paddles into rivers, plunging our hands into garden dirt: these things cast little spells on us — they help us fall more in love with ourselves and this world.

#3

The Black Sheep Parent’s 4-year-old son made her very proud when he created this love note for her to transcribe. (Photo by Brianna Sharpe)

#4 Dear Earth, 
Quietly, and with open arms, you support us — flaws and all. But your boundaries are firm: you make us aware when we’ve gone too far. I want to learn from your fierceness, defending myself when I feel overrun. But I also want to be kinder, and more respectful of your boundaries.

#5

Gisele Hardock lives near Cochrane, AB, with her three children, partner, dog, and thousands of honey bees. (Photo courtesy Gisele Hardock)

#6 Dear Earth, 
I’m sorry we often have to make choices that aren’t the most Earth-friendly. For each decision this year, I want to ask myself if acting more responsibly is actually not possible or just not a priority? For example, I know eating far less meat and animal products will help us manage the methane in our atmosphere and protect our forests. Full-on vegetarianism or veganism isn’t a possibility for my family right now; on the other hand, while making most of our meals animal-free is inconvenient (meat and potatoes is absurdly easy), it is certainly possible, so that’s our plan for the year.

#7

Amy Lister is a coach and facilitator who lives in Toronto, ON, with her partner and two children, ages 1 and 10. (Image courtesy Amy Lister)

#8 Dear Earth, 
What a gift it is to have a mini-acreage on which to safely raise our flock… um, family. (Unfortunately, we’re not zoned for actual livestock.) This summer, we want to build another garden box, and specifically plant veggies for canning, so we have local eats over the colder months.

#9 Dear Earth, 
We’ll also set up a laundry line system so our clothes can smell like garden, not dryer (and so I can feel like Anne of Green Gables as I pin them up). These are teeny steps toward our vision of lower carbon living.

#10 Dear Earth, 
I’ve probably spent over 200 nights sleeping on your surface, between pines, next to lakes, and in the snow. Thank you for holding me while I dreamt (and never electrocuting me in any of those countless thunderstorms), and teaching me about adventure and myself. We’ll continue to support provincial and national parks and teach our kids Leave No Trace ethics.

#11 & #12

Michelle Hounslow is an Alberta woman with a BC heart. She’s the mama of a 4-year-old, and you can follow their adventures as they make the world a better place. (Images courtesy Michelle Hounslow)

#13 Dear Earth, 
I’m sorry we don’t have more money. Raising a family on a limited budget has challenged my eco-principles. I wish we could install solar panels and redesign our house for passive heating, but that would require a lottery win (or a book deal). I’d love to take more action on environmental justice, but my days are stretched beyond reason already. I do, however, have the ability to live more modestly, to resist the siren song of more-more-more, and to hopefully instill that same resistance in my kids.

I wish we could install solar panels and redesign our house for passive heating, but that would require a lottery win.

# 14 Dear Earth, 
While taking on more activism will have to wait, I want to want to initiate more conversations with local activists, academics, and politicians, to bring the big issues home in a more real way. While crises like the one currently unfolding in the Wet’suwet’en nation of northern BC may seem geographically distant, they cut to the quick of who we are as humans and our relationship to land.

#15 Dear Earth,
Thank you for the elements that sustain us. My family is crazy-lucky to have access to clean, drinkable, pathogen-free drinking water. Along with our friends Alexa, John, Sam, and Emily, we want to show our gratitude by avoiding single-use plastics, and reducing the plastic in our lives overall. This isn’t just a trend, and it doesn’t end at drinking straws. While these products are oh-so-convenient, their effects on our water (not to mention the soil, and even the air) are becoming increasingly inconvenient truths.

Alexa and John Haberer live in Thunder Bay, ON, with their two children, ages 2 and 4, and dog. (Photo by Alexa Haberer)

#16 Dear Earth, 
Although there is zero chance of my family going zero-waste before the kids are old enough to help me menu plan (instead of pathologically refusing every piece of food they loved the day before), I will continue to strive to refuse all the crap, reuse what I can’t, reduce what we need, and live with less stuff.

#17

Kristine Peter is a Canadian living in Perth, Western Australia, with her partner and two children, aged 2 and 4. She’s also a blogger and integrative nutrition health coach. (Photo by Kristine Peter)

#18 Dear Earth, 
With a riot of roots for hair, eyes that shine with the brightness of lakes, and a spine made of mountain peaks: you make homes for the freest creatures, the softest birds, the slickest fish, and the most delicate of insects. You inspire my children to play like wild things, growing strong and robust, while they find their place in nature’s order.

#19

Sam turns 8 at the end of January, and has a love of drawing, building things and playing outside. (Photos by Kari Woo)

With more love than you know,

Bri, Eric, Mini Ewe, Little Grey Lamb, Alexa, John, Emily, Sam, Koa, Michelle, Sydney, Amy, Joe, Kirby, Quinn, Kris, Izzy, Oliver, and Gisele

I would like to acknowledge that the land on which I write and live is also the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Nations, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai. I also honour the Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

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