by Fozia Kamran Cheema
I migrated to Denmark from Pakistan ten years ago on a beautiful late autumn day. I was mesmerized to see the yellow-orange magical colors of nature. But like other magic, it did not last long, and soon came winter. Long dark, cold, snowy depressing days and nights. Denmark’s winter was strange, non-welcoming, full of naked trees and leafless branches, and the exact opposite of what I imagined.
I missed Pakistan and the strange thing was, I only missed my childhood in Pakistan. Neither my teenaged days nor my twenties, only my childhood. I missed that tiny garden of my childhood home, full of all kinds of trees and vegetables, planted by my father. I missed the taste of sweet, handpicked mulberries; I remembered me climbing on a guava tree and my morning readings under a pomegranate tree. Some nights, the smell of coriander and mint from that garden became so real to me, that I cried in my sleep.
And then came spring, and all my sorrows and grief washed away with it. Beautiful, splendid colors, tress like newlyweds with their charming new outfits, flowers in abundance.
In 11th grade, I read a poem about daffodils. And one of verse was ….and then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. I truly understood the meaning of pleasure filled heart after I saw daffodils for the first time in my life in Denmark. Plenty of them, everywhere, around the corners, on the grass, between sidewalks, beautiful yellow, orange, white daffodils. They were my love at first sight. I later became sad due to many other reasons in life, but never again due to Danish weather, not even in winters because I knew soon this freezing sadness will end and then I will be surrounded with daffodils, singing with them, listening to them, absorbing their positive energy. My relationship with daffodils was stable, familiar without surprises and ups and downs. I and my daffodils were enjoying each other, I knew they will appear at the start of march and they knew they had a commitment to me. I never needed a therapy session, as daffodils were always on time, never late, sometimes even before time.
New Year’s Eve 2020 was full of uncertainty and fear for all of us. I was also sad due to the newly emerged coronavirus situation, travel restrictions, masks, and feelings of constant fear and loneliness.
There were so many new things to learn, rules to understand, and unacceptable situations to accept. But even though everything was not as it was before, I still had hope. I knew daffodils would not let me down. They would appear and would fill my heart with pleasure and joy. And they fulfilled their promise like always, they appeared in every corner, but sadly they were not alone. There was an unexpected guest along with them. A strange cold-hearted guest nobody expects in spring season…Mr. Snow.
I was astonished to see snow along with daffodils, a strange combination of misery and joy. It was impossible to enjoy daffodils, while it was snowing. They were not made for each other. I could not go out and appreciate my daffodils, I was not even able to sit beside them, talk to them, eat blueberries along with them. Snow destroyed our relationship; I could only take sad pictures of snowy shivering daffodils from my apartment windows.
I have heard people talking about global warming and climate change on the news, on television, and everywhere on social media. Sadly, I never took it seriously, I listened empty-headedly when I was told that the last decade was the warmest ever in history. I knew global warming was a threat, what I did not know was, that that threat was so imminent. I was aware that my future generations would suffer due to the poor choices I am making today, but I did not know that those future generations, we were talking about in decades could be my generations or my daughters’.
And as I was watching withered faces of daffodils, all sad and bent, unable to wave or sing, climate change suddenly became a fact for me, more real, more actual, closer than ever, right my doorstep killing my daffodils and at the same time my happiness and joy.
Years of watching and listening about climate change had not impacted me the way, three days of snowy spring did. I never took practical actions about climate change; I sometimes rather laugh at climate activists. I never ever thought that I would be personally affected by any form of climate change…
And future generations, who have the time and energy to think about future generations??
Now I also realized, why I only missed my childhood home, because it was full of trees and hence full of life. There were birds every morning and there was a smell of fresh fruits and vegetables. I suddenly became afraid that my daughters and my grandchildren might never enjoy that pure calm nature I did.
I decided to take action, I cannot let nature die, I cannot imagine a winter without hope of a daffodils-filled spring. I do not want to witness a spring without flowers and with trees as lifeless and leafless as in winter. And above all, I did not want to be that selfish generation who enjoyed the last spring, who knew winter was coming, and who did not take necessary measures to stop it.
According to UNDP official data, there is no country that is not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 percent higher than in 1990. Global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if we do not act.
The annual average economic losses from climate-related disasters are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This is not to mention the human impact of geophysical disasters, which are 91 percent climate-related, and which between 1998 and 2017 killed 1.3 million people and left 4.4 billion injured.
I started reading about climate change and what I can do to prevent it. How can I become a tiny soldier in the fight against climate change? What can I do, so my daffodils can grow forever? What was I doing wrong all these years, and how can I fix it now?
And one evening I was blow drying my long, beautiful hair, after I was finished with my 35-minute hot shower, I saw yet again daffodils outside my window, all sad and heartbroken, waiting for me to save them.
Right there I decided what to do. I will never ever again use more than 10 minutes on my showers. But with hair that long, is it even possible??
I made a choice; I chose daffodils at the cost of something else.
I am willing to sacrifice for my future generations. I must sow, for them to grow.
Can you guess my choice? And have you made yours?
Winter is indeed coming … What is your tiny step?
Fozia Kamran Cheema er fysioterapeut ved Rigshospitalet.
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